In a few weeks, Cayuga County will reach a somber anniversary. Mid-March marks one year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced closures and disruptions throughout our community. Like so many businesses, the Cayuga Economic Development Agency (CEDA) was thrust into change, reducing staff at our office building, shifting to remote operations, and adopting health and safety measures to slow the spread of the virus. Our jobs as economic developers went into high-gear as we continued our normal work with business owners and entrepreneurs while collaborating with our partners to provide emergency assistance to a business community that was reeling from the effects of shut-downs, disrupted supply chains, and mandates.
From March through September 2020, CEDA assisted 193 Cayuga County businesses with COVID-related issues. Early in the COVID crisis, we released a survey to gather information about business needs. CEDA staff responded to each business that filled out the survey, as well as a number of inquiries that came in by phone and email separate from the survey. CEDA provided technical assistance and made referrals to various local, state, and federal financial assistance resources.
Together with our partner organization, the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce, we developed an online listing of financial resources as well as reliable local, state, and federal guidance for Cayuga County businesses impacted by COVID-19. The Coronavirus Small Business Guide is updated regularly with new resources by CEDA and Chamber staff and can be accessed from Chamber’s homepage: cayugacountychamber.com.
With funding from the Cayuga County Development Corporation, CEDA has been able to offer and administer a microloan program specifically to assist businesses impacted by COVID. Since the program’s inception in late March 2020, 22 loans totaling $101,550 have been disbursed. Funding is still available to help Cayuga County businesses in need acquire these small, but favorable loans. For more information about the Emergency Microloan Program and to download an application, visit cayugaeda.org/microloan.
The City of Auburn committed $224,000 of emergency Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, plus another $100,000 from its revolving loan fund, to provide grants to businesses impacted by COVID. CEDA helped to develop the program guidelines and application, then administered marketing and application intake for this program. 52 businesses were awarded grants ranging from $3,000 to $8,580. CEDA staff is also providing follow up administration and monitoring.
While the pandemic was wreaking havoc on the local economy, there was still everyday economic development work to be done. In addition to the nearly 200 Cayuga County businesses in need of COVID-19 related assistance, our staff assisted 120 existing businesses and 52 entrepreneurs with regular development needs. CEDA assisted 10 projects that brought over $80.2m in investments aided by $15m in incentives from local loans and IDAs. These projects are expected to create 273 jobs and retain 291 jobs for Cayuga County. Some examples of the businesses we worked with this year are:
- Avstar Fuel Systems is constructing an 11,500 square foot addition to their existing facility and are acquiring additional CNC machines to expand their manufacturing operation in Auburn. CEDA staff assisted Avstar in applying for AIDA incentives, and continue to connect them with financial and community resources.
- CEDA guided and translated for Elizabeth and Robert from Casa Latina’s through the Auburn City Codes process to obtain a certificate of occupancy. CEDA also helped with getting a permit for their sign, registering to pay NYS sales tax, getting a NYS grocery store license, and applying to accept SNAP and WIC.
- The Reuse Refuge is a small, retail store in downtown Auburn. They sell soaps in refillable bottles as well as other zero-waste themed items. CEDA met with them over the summer of 2020 to inform them about the steps needed to open a small retail space in downtown Auburn and also made suggestions of people and organizations they should reach out to during the process of opening their business.
These and other projects are highlighted in our 2020 Annual Report, which can be accessed on our website’s Strategy and Reporting page: https://cayugaeda.org/about/strategy-and-reporting/
Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, businesses continue to start up and expand in Cayuga County. Along with our work to support our businesses through the crisis and provide assistance to growing businesses, last year we assisted with the opening of 15 new small businesses. CEDA continues to work to support businesses with the aim of creating jobs and improving quality of life in Cayuga County.