With restrictions and various levels of shutdowns in 2020, businesses nationwide struggled. In Castle Rock, several organizations recognized the hardships and came together to do what was needed to …
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With restrictions and various levels of shutdowns in 2020, businesses nationwide struggled. In Castle Rock, several organizations recognized the hardships and came together to do what was needed to pull through the pandemic.
Castle Rock Mayor Jason Gray said, “The EDC (Economic Development Council), chamber of commerce and the Town of Castle Rock with other partnerships got out in front and led the way for our small businesses and provided a roadmap for many communities on the front range. It was a tough year. Without (the town, the county, and the EDC) and the amazing local support from our citizens, it would have been catastrophic. It was a big lift and the EDC led the way.”
Pointing to a strong support system already in place before the pandemic, Frank Gray, director of the EDC, said they were able to work with the town and the chamber to mobilize and react quickly.
“Castle Rock economic development partnerships were ready because we all work collaboratively,” he said. “We have always held meetings to make sure we are all on the same page. When this crisis hit, it was not a huge change for us to collaborate. We already had the relationships in place. It was not hard to come together and create a plan when the community really needed it most.”
To help businesses going through economic hardships, the EDC worked with the Castle Rock Town Council and banks to create two 0% loan programs. With the town providing financial assistance, the EDC was able to offer local businesses $2 million in loan services.
In an April 6 council meeting, Frank Gray said businesses are getting back on track, offering the council a $25,000 payment from business owners that have been paying back loans. Of the more than $400,000 in funds offered by the town, he said about $168,000 has been repaid.
“The town council really stepped up,” Frank Gray said. “Castle Rock businesses were able to weather the storm well. We lost some businesses. Some of them were small and just starting, others were already struggling before the pandemic.”
Frank Gray said Castle Rock has a good mix of downtown businesses. While restaurants struggled a lot, he said local support and take-out programs helped them get through 2020.
The EDC offered businesses two loan options. One was through the crowdsourced Kiva loan program. The second option was a 0% percent loan up to $15,0000 through a bank.
Frank Gray said the good news is that Castle Rock businesses managed well in the pandemic. While there was $2 million available, businesses used just over $1 million.
Even if there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the pandemic, Frank Gray said businesses still have a lengthy road to full recovery.
“While we say they have weathered the storm, some will take some time in coming back,” he said. “Some may have accrued more debt. They may have had a terrible year. All of them took varying levels of hits. It will take time to recover.”
While the EDC worked on the financial front, the Castle Rock Chamber of Commerce jumped in to help businesses understand what various rules and regulations meant.
As federal, state and county restrictions fluctuated, Chamber President Pam Ridler said they worked to break the situation down and communicate with local businesses on what they needed to do to comply with mandates and stay open.
The effective planning Castle Rock had in addressing the challenges of the pandemic head on were due to 15 years of continued partnerships, Ridler said.
“We focus on anything regarding economic development in the community,” she said. “It was really about expanding those partnerships because we all knew we couldn’t get through this alone.”
Ridler said there were times where the news would report the county or state saying one thing about loosened restrictions, but then the health department would be saying something different. It was important that the chamber become a reliable resource to get a clear, up-to-date picture of what all the reports, restrictions and rules really meant.
“There were moments where restaurants didn’t know what to do,” Ridler said. “We had moments of tears. This is (business owners’) livelihood. It is their staff. It made us really work to figure it all out.”
Ridler said Castle Rock’s strength was also shown through how businesses pulled together to help each other. Competitors helped each other, and all did what was needed to keep the community on track, she said.
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