Schaumburg drafts plan to curb pandemic's impact on economy

Everyone wants the pre-coronavirus world back, but as the home of Illinois' second largest municipal economy, the village of Schaumburg has prepared an especially detailed and strategic pandemic recovery plan to help its beleaguered business community find its "new normal."

The plan was researched and drafted by the village's economic development department, led by Director Matt Frank, and will go before the village board for possible approval Tuesday night.

With a specific list of resources and options for action, the plan's two basic goals are help Schaumburg's businesses operate safely and get the word out that they are doing so, in order to rebuild the public confidence necessary for them to thrive.

For example, occupancy standards, strict hygiene protocols and a prohibition on the consumption of food and beverages are what allowed Schaumburg's new Barnes & Noble store at 1470-B E. Golf Road to safely open on schedule last week during Phase 3 of Gov. J.B. Pritzker's Restore Illinois plan, Frank said.

Schaumburg's plan addresses the various areas of its business community, from hard-hit clothing stores, hotels and restaurants to the relatively unscathed industrial sector.

Teaching businesses how to use new technology is another important tool in the recovery, Frank said. This can include everything from virtual interactions to cashless transactions.

Already in place is a map on the village's website showing which restaurants are operating.

Related to the effort is a small-business grant program, which the village board also will consider approving Tuesday. Originally conceived as a way for businesses of five employees or less to improve their buildings, it's been retooled as a way to help protect payrolls in the short term.

Trustees will decide whether to allocate $100,000 to the program, of which each business can receive up to $10,000. One of the criteria is to identify businesses that have not received financial relief through any of the other resources listed in the recovery plan, Frank said.

"One thing our board has always been good at is thinking long term about the viability of the community," he said.

Mayor Tom Dailly said the recovery plan and grant program are crucial elements in keeping Schaumburg's diverse economy intact.

"I think it's important that we try to help the businesses, particularly the small businesses, that have less capability of finding out this information," he said.

The mayor also plans promote the village's businesses through a series of "Dailly Sightings" shared on social media, Frank said.

Lisa Gilbert, president of the Schaumburg Business Association, said the village has an important role to play in the recovery of the private sector. Officials were quick to implement online applications for restaurants seeking to adjust to new protocols through outdoor seating, she said.

"We are trying to keep our business community as informed as possible," Gilbert said. "I know there's going to be some businesses that will look different, but there are a lot of strengths in the Schaumburg business community." So what will it take to say Schaumburg's economy has recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic?

"We are recovering," Gilbert said. "What it means to say we've recovered is more stability."

Frank said his criteria for considering the local economy recovered will include significant improvements in the number of unemployed residents, the vacancy rate among commercial buildings and the village's sales taxes.

Schaumburg economic leaders foresee growth, offer business grants

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