For California to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, creating effective collaborations that span across the public, private, civic, and nonprofit sectors will be key. Three regions benefiting from such partnerships that were formed as the pandemic hit were highlighted at the breakout session Effective Cross Sector Collaboration on Economic Reopening during CA Fwd’s recent Regions Recover Together virtual event.
In the Inland Empire, Paul Granillo, president and CEO of the Inland Empire Economic Partnership, explained, “We set up three teams in our Economic Recovery Task Force. Those three teams and their chairs are working together to help us understand how we can best come out of the economic downturn.”
The three teams include the Economic Recovery Research Team, responsible for making sure policy makers have up-to-date data to make informed decisions, the Economic Recovery Team of business and county leaders tasked with creating a regional plan with a focus on the economic needs in the immediate, mid and long-term future, and the Workforce Recovery Team which will develop a strategy to expand, retain, and employ the educated and/or displaced workforce and to prevent a “brain drain” of the unemployed or underemployed educated workforce.
The Redwood Coast started up their cross-sector collaboration before the state issued its stay-at-home orders in mid-March. The COVID Economic Resilience Consortium (CERC) started as a daily meeting of Humboldt County economic and business development partners to help local businesses weather the economic downturn. Working quickly was key, as they made their first loan to a local business five days after the state ordered statewide restrictions.
CERC has evolved into a thrice-weekly Zoom meeting with representatives from various sectors including broadband, workforce training, childcare and several others that impact the region’s economy. Two of the weekly calls focus on local efforts, while the third call involves regional partners beyond Humboldt County.
“If you can imagine what a commitment it takes to free time from people,” said Leila Roberts, director of the North Coast Small Business Development Center, of the participants from the various sectors from banking to workforce development to supply procurement and more. “That demonstrates to me a pretty extraordinary level of commitment, but it also demonstrates that, since we still get 20-40 people on the calls, we are creating value for the participants.”
The Imperial Valley has been one of the hardest hit regions and is now facing some of the state’s highest COVID-19 rates per capita while also experiencing 28% unemployment. Because of the high positive case rate, Imperial County is one of the few counties still in Stage 2A of reopening, which means most businesses are still closed.
To address these issues, the Imperial Valley Business Recovery Task Force was created in late March and includes local Chambers of Commerce, small business development centers, the Farm Bureau, the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation, the Imperial County Workforce and Development Department and representatives from the local cities. The Task Force is a resource for local businesses on issues dealing with financial assistance, modification of business operations to survive the downturn or how to adjust to the new safety requirements and restrictions.
“This cross-sector coordination is important because as representatives of the business community, they are able to tell us at the county what may or may not work,” said Imperial County’s Rebecca Terrazas-Baxter. “We can make policy changes to whatever policy or regulation we put in place based on state guidance.”
The Task Force and Imperial County have worked together to create a general worksite protection plan (required for any business that is reopening), create and distribute a standardized notification posters about safety precautions for businesses to post for their customers and consistent messaging on hygiene practices.
Imperial County also established a $500,000 low-interest, forgivable loan program for local for-profit and non-profit businesses. “We heard from our business community that many local businesses were not able to participate in the PPP program,” added Terrazas-Baxter. “We saw this as an opportunity to either supplant or supplement any other assistance they may be seeking at this time.”
“There is no other way to go after big, complex problems than with a cross-sector partnership,” said Aneesh Raman of the State Economic Recovery Task Force, a public-private partnership formed to tackle the economic crisis. “No one sector can do any of this on their own and, if each sector is doing it on their own, they’re often running to each other in silos and we’re not have the scale of impact that we would all hope, given the work we do.”
The state task force focuses on data-sharing, providing guidance to the business community vetted with task force members, providing advocacy especially to obtain more support at the federal level, and creating partnerships that will encourage economic recovery.
Raman offered his lessons on cross-system collaboration that includes making sure there is a clarity on objectives, having an owner who is driving the process and is responsible for key deliverables and metrics, and being agile because partnerships and dynamics can change at any moment.
Although these cross-sector collaborations are regional, the work created will affect all Californians according to Granillo, “I think there’s a lot of information that can be gleaned from these task forces that can really help the state as a whole recover more quickly.”
To find our stories on the Regions Recover Together virtual event, please click here.