As with municipalities in heavily-populated communities across the country, the city of Troy has been forced to undertake creative measures to ensure restaurants, hotels and retail establishments stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.
David Hamilton, the Mayor Pro Tem of Troy, said the city is home to over 6,000 businesses. Hamilton also said businesses within the hospitality and dining sphere were hit the hardest during the pandemic.
“The hotel business … no one is reserving their banquet halls naturally, and that is a huge hit to their revenue,” he said. Other places, such as Somerset and Oakland Mall, made it through the pandemic with minimal strain.
Hamilton said with many area businesses implementing work-from-home policies, local restaurants have seen a dramatic decrease in revenue since people aren’t going out during their lunch break or after work to grab a bite to eat.
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Hamilton also mentioned that before the pandemic, Troy had 110,000 people working at area businesses on a daily basis, but a large majority of this workforce was sent home and hasn’t yet returned. As such, other measures were taken by the chamber of commerce and the city council to ensure that local small businesses could survive during the pandemic.
Troy Chamber of Commerce members from left to right: Jody House, Sheila Denstaedt, Tara Tomcsik-Husak and Theresa Ervin/ Used with permission from Tomcsik-Husak
External sources of help
On March 27, President Donald Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or CARES Act; this new piece of legislation aimed at providing short-term grants and scholarships for small businesses across the country.
While not every business that applies for these funds receives them, CARES Act funding did provide a needed monetary boost for many local establishments within Troy. In addition, Oakland County partnered with the city to provide vital PPE instruments for local area businesses.
“The county really stepped up and provided thermometers, hand sanitizer, gloves and masks, “ said Troy Chamber of Commerce CEO and President, Tara Tomcsik-Husak. “We worked really closely with them and with the state to try and find out where these funding opportunities were as well. We actually had a website on our Troy chamber page specifically dedicated to COVID relief. “
Hundreds of businesses within the Troy area were able to receive CARES funding grants through the state government and Oakland County, according to Tomcsik-Husak. Most of these grants amounted to $5,000 or $10,000 dollars.
Troy Chamber of Commerce CEO Tara Tomcsik-Husak/ Used with permission from Tara Tomcsik-Husak
Reducing Signage Restrictions
Advertising through roadway signs is often a good way for a business to generate some foot traffic. Typically, the city of Troy has enacted limits on how many signs could be placed within a particular area, as well as how many signs a specific business can put within the city limits, but that requirement is being relaxed.
“Two of the major initiatives that we as a city council have enacted to help them (small businesses) is we’ve eased our temporary signage rules,“ said Hamilton. “That will allow businesses to put out signs on the main roads to kind of advertise themselves both to help because we have major construction on I-75 and also just to bring business in. We also loosened the temporary enclosure restrictions … it allows a single-family or single group to meet and have some kind of heated air.”
With the enclosure restrictions loosened, local restaurants will be able to provide outdoor dining during the winter in small pod-like enclosures. This allows for more people to be served while also complying with social distancing guidelines.
Large Businesses Helping out
It wasn’t just Oakland County and the state government that helped ensure the safety of local workers during the pandemic. Many large businesses within Troy and the surrounding areas switched to manufacturing masks, face shields and hand sanitizer.
“Folks like Mahindra (an automotive and tractor manufacturer) who are chamber members… they were one of the ones who early on retooled their plant and started making the face shields,” said Sheila Denstaedt, the Director of Business Development for the Troy Chamber of Commerce.
Denstaedt, a Michigan State journalism graduate, mentioned that the 16-mile and Big Beaver I-75 corridor is where most of the hotels and restaurants are in the city, so increased economic assistance is being concentrated in that area of the city.
Troy Director of Business Development Sheila Denstaedt/ Used with permission from Sheila Denstaedt
Thanks to a recent executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, cinemas, indoor theatres, arcades, bowling alleys and other entertainment venues will be able to open up on Oct. 9 with certain social distancing requirements. This is great news for places like the MJR Troy Grand Digital Cinema, Escape Bowling Alley and other local entertainment venues. How each business decides to reopen is strictly up to them, but many area businesses are collaborating together to ensure a smoother transition.
“Each individual business is (reopening) themselves, but as we see that, we share it, “ said Denstaedt. “Emagine… they had a safety program in place, and they were talking about that, so we shared that with our members.
The Troy Chamber of Commerce and City Council are conducting most operations virtually during the pandemic. It is unknown at this time when the Chamber of Commerce and City Council will meet in-person.