Grand Enterprise Initiative
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Posted on January 28th, 2021

Sadly, I’m hearing it more frequently than I expected.

Local retail stores, restaurants, coffee shops and other businesses that deal with the public during these COVID times are seeing more and more customers who are belligerent about mask-wearing requirements.

One prominent retailer lamented the frequency at which customers without masks on blithely walk into her business despite the clear and obvious signs that state mask-wearing is required. More than one retailer has complained about this problem, as have several restaurant and other food-service businesses. Some people just don’t care.

But what’s even more disturbing are the reports I’m hearing of out-sized angry and nasty responses that workers suffer through when these mask-less customers are nicely asked to wear masks.

I’ve heard of temper tantrums by adults. I’ve heard of profanity being used by young children when asked to wear a mask. I heard of one case were a customer yanked off his poorly worn mask and threw it on the floor, blathering loudly and embarrassingly the entire time. An expensive pair of glasses was even damaged in this fit of pique. The stories go on and on.
This all suggests an astounding lack of respect shown by many customers toward regular workers and employees. It shows an indifference to the safety of others. I’m sorry to hear that this sort of behavior takes place when we are in the midst of a deadly pandemic.

I applaud our local businesses who put in place mask-wearing requirements because their efforts to try and limit the spread of disease is an effort that can help protect my health, the health of my family and the health of our community. As well, it can help limit the spread of disease that could again result in business shut-downs and curfews that would ultimately kill our business and kill our fragile winter season.

Business owners should remember that they have the absolute right to require mask-wearing in their locations. In the same way that a restaurant or store can say “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service,” they can say “No Mask, No Entry and No Service.” It’s not a political statement. It’s a public health and economic protection measure. Just because a store or restaurant is open to the public does not mean it’s a public place like a sidewalk or a roadway. It’s still a private business.

Yes, government can step in and force the issue in all public places and businesses, but we are not in that position yet.

I know that almost every local business I can think of is being proactive about their mask-wearing policies. They are providing clear and simple notice, with signs at entrances or inside, that clearly state mask-wearing is required. Conspicuous signage in prominent places is a good idea. It might even help to assign an employee or manager to stand at the door to inform people walking in of the sign-wearing requirement.

Employees should be trained in the basics of how to gently remind customers of the mask-wearing requirement, even offering a mask for the customer’s use if needed.

It’s also a good idea to accommodate those rare customers who have health reasons that preclude them from being able to wear a mask. Offer them alternative entry, special service windows or even special delivery.

Then try and be delicate in dealing with visitors who flat-out refuse to comply. A manager is usually the best person to deal with these non-compliant customers. Once again, offer alternatives to these customers (to-go service, special outside dining, perhaps) that aren’t confrontational or demeaning.

Of course, if push comes to shove, then law enforcement can be called to handle an out-of-control mask resister.

I hope that as time goes by our visitors will start to realize that mask-wearing in a business is good for them, good for society, and good overall for business. With that realization, perhaps angry responses will subside.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching to anyone wanting to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on January 8th, 2021

The last year has surely been quizzical for business development in Grand County.

Quizzical because while there were many difficult and unfortunate challenges for small businesses and small business start-ups in Grand County, there are also continued to be enthusiasm for new businesses and business expansions. The numbers of the Grand Enterprise Initiative for the year tell that story.

Most people would expect, in light of COVID and the fires, that business could have ground to a halt in the county. But our work here conveys a nuanced picture.

In 2020 we added 32 new clients, bringing the total number of clients of the Grand Enterprise Initiative from 411 to 443. A client is any person who has called and asked for assistance with a business start-up or expansion and who has met to discuss the ideas. In years before 2020, we would add 40 to 50 clients on average. So a total of 32 new clients in 2020 is surprising.

That resulted in our assistance with 17 new businesses in the county in 2020 which helped to create 29 new jobs. Some of these were part-time jobs for entrepreneurs just getting started or regular full-time jobs through expansions or acquisitions.

My point here is that business hasn’t been all bad and enthusiasm for entrepreneurial ventures in the county hasn’t vanished because of COVID and the fires. My hat is off to the individuals out there who are persisting in their dreams to own and operate their own businesses in Grand County.

But there have been closures for businesses in the county, many directly related to COVID. In two cases, one a retail store and one a restaurant, the COVID restrictions and risks pushed “older” owners into the position of simply closing up shop and retiring. In another two cases I know of people have held off on launching business ventures that would have been heavily dependent on COVID-restricted business. These people are waiting; their plans are on hold.
The general rule has been that small businesses that didn’t have the funds in reserve to persist through the bad three months of COVID (March, April and May of 2020) struggled or closed. Other larger businesses that had more resources persisted, some losing money and just hanging on.

In sum, COVID and the fires definitely impacted our county from a business perspective.
On the other side of the coin is the fact that in many other ways business has been booming, which is strange to say. This is why 2020 has been so quizzical from a business development perspective.

Many tourists flocked to the county last summer and during this early winter. This has boosted businesses that were able to stay open. Real estate and construction, two of the larger segments of our local economy, have been booming. And while retail in some parts of the country has been devastated, much of the retail activity in Grand County has done quite well. Think liquor stores, essential supply businesses (hardware, construction supplies, business supplies) when pondering the retail sectors that have done OK in the midst of COVID.
Most businesses depending on live entertainment and gathering groups of people were hurt. I can only hope they hang on.

Which brings us to the pivot to a new economy here once COVID truly starts to fade away. I am hoping that truly happens by mid-summer or early fall at the latest.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.
 

Posted on December 20th, 2020

While it’s difficult for me to see a way to make hey from the dire economic impacts of COVID-19, I can see some opportunity in the probable response to the East Troublesome Fire.
Yes, I think there will be clean-up efforts and watershed restoration programs and the like. And, yes, there will be some jobs created locally for those efforts. There will be many jobs as homes and buildings are rebuilt.

But I don’t see how that employment and one-shot efforts to clean-up from the massive damage of the fire will come anywhere near to making up for the loss of more than 300 homes, 200 out-buildings and all the related losses to jobs and income from fire damage.

But there is one area where there just might be a silver lining, and that’s in the realm of forest management. The Denver Post has already run a page one story that examined the ways in which loggers and lumber mills could see more business as people look more favorably on large, clear-cut logging operations.

That would be because such large logging projects create massive areas of the forest where it would be difficult for a fire like the East Troublesome inferno to take off and consume so much forest so quickly. I think there is a sort of simplistic yet compelling logic to such an argument.
Just go out and cut a bunch of those trees in the cause of fire suppression and we’ll be putting the brakes on massive wildfires in the future.

If we can get to the forest economically.

If we can find markets for all the trees that will suddenly need to be purchased.

If we can find trees that are “marketable.”

If we can find a hungry and wood-starved lumber supply chain that can afford to pay for the type of lumber we’d be producing for many years into the future.

It’s not as if it’s a simple as cutting down trees and driving them to a mill that will pay enough for the trees to make it worthwhile. Logging, even on public land, is a market-based operation that needs to be worthwhile, by which I mean capable of paying for the wages and transportation and hauling by loggers.

But as any logger will say, it costs money to cut trees and drive them to a mill.

And as a mill owner will say, people have to be willing to pay high enough prices for their products made from those logs (structural lumber, graded lumber composite lumber, etc.) to justify the mill paying a fair price to the loggers. But lumber markets are fickle and it’s not as if there’s always strong enough demand and need for lumber mills to make a go of it. And this despite the building boom we are seeing now around here.

Which brings us full circle to debates that are actually quite old in these parts. There are all these trees out there, many of which create fire hazards, which sit on public land, which frequently aren’t worth the effort to cut and haul. They are in rough and steep terrain, far from lumber mills and many times the quality of the wood just isn’t marketable.

Which brings us to “below-cost timber sales.” That happens when the federal government essentially subsidizes loggers to go out and cut trees, using tax dollars to make up the difference for what the market will bear. These sorts of sales have prompted all kinds of controversy in the past, both from budget hawks and environmentalists.

But I fear that may be what’s required to truly “clean-up” our forests so that another East Troublesome fire doesn’t ruin another huge swath of our forests. That could create more jobs, for sure.

Or do we continue to live with the threat looming over our heads, imagining massive fire damage every time we look out our beautiful Rocky Mountains here in Grand County.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on October 16th, 2020

Many of my clients across the county are asking: When will the COVID-19 disruption end?
Of course, I can’t predict the future accurately. All I can do is make some educated guesses. But my educated guesses are based on activities and policies being adopted by some of the bigger corporate and government players in the country. And my guesses end up being not such great news.

And yet, on the other hand, while COVID-19 has been disruptive in Grand County, it hasn’t always been bad for business. In fact, is some regards, it’s been good for business. And yet, restaurants, bars and entertainment venues are continuing to suffer.

Let me explain. I think we are going to be struggling with the direct impacts of COVID-19 until mid-summer of 2021. By direct impacts I mean there will still be limitations on massive public gatherings, close proximity seating at bars and restaurants and public indoor gatherings in general. That’s a guess, but I think businesses should plan on that scenario.

This is because even if there is a vaccine out by the first of the year or early spring, it will be very difficult to get it out to everyone in the U.S. quickly. And the entire vaccine cure-all theory might not be such a cure-all after all considering how viruses evolve, how international politics could muddy the works (China is moving fast on vaccines and would the U.S. beg our new “enemy” for help?), and how misinformation and conspiracy theories could make vaccine’s worthless because people may be dissuaded from vaccinations by bogus conspiracies. A vaccine works much better for broad societal improvement if a large majority uses it.

So there’s that. And then large tech companies and large finance and banking organizations are planning on implementing new “office” guidelines starting in late summer of 2021. These are companies that live and die off of prognosticating and if they are seeing “normalization” for that time of year then I think that holds water.

I think in one year from now we might be able to count on some normality, knowing that the new norm won’t be the norm of 2019.

Will there be in the mean-time full lockdowns on our economy? Probably not, especially if we wear masks, socially distance and use common sense.

But some businesses will be slower and see a lost winter. I hate to say it.

And yet others, I think, will continue to see some of the recent strongly positive business patterns continue. For many retailers and outdoor recreation providers the last four months have exceeded all expectations. That’s because people are heading outdoors and recreating more. Grand County is a perfect place for that and we will continue to see positive economic impacts from that.

As well, housing and homes and real estate in general will continue to see a boom. People are wanting to outright move to Grand County if not just spend a few weeks more than usual renting and living in Grand County. This has had a big impact on real estate values, rental available and all the impacts on the market that entails.

Sadly, all of the above means that employee and affordable housing will be rare and employees themselves will be hard to find — the eternal dilemma for Grand County businesses.

So for now, my crystal ball says COVID-19 impacts will be here longer than I want. Now’s the time to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He provides free and confidential business management coaching for anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached at 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.

Posted on October 2nd, 2020

Once a year I like to take the time to update the community on how my work as Enterprise Facilitator with the Grand Enterprise Initiative is proceeding. And I must say, the last year has been a crazy year.

We’ve added 30 new clients since this time last year. A client is anyone who has called and asked for assistance and with whom we’ve met. We’ve helped seven new business open their doors, adding 10 new jobs to the economy. These are businesses in Winter Park, Fraser, Granby and Kremmling. We’ve helped with two acquisitions, which means businesses that might have closed continued to operate. We’ve helped with 20 tune-ups and expansions, most related to COVID-19 issues. This assistance was county wide.

I never would have guessed we would have seen such good results in the midst of a pandemic. But the truth is, business is good, but challenged, in Grand County right now. The challenges are despite COVID-19 and because of COVID-19.

Let me explain. The despite COVID successes have been because while many service businesses, especially restaurants and bars, have been forced to cut back on their capacity, many of them have weathered the storm and are managing to get by in these strange times.
Yes, many essentially lost three months of business, or 25% of the year. But since then, for restaurants, innovative seating, take-out cuisine and simple persistence has paid off. For bars, it’s been tougher. When a business model is based on getting people together to drink is told to stop or severely cut back, the challenges are extreme. But demand has been high, especially from visitors, and those sectors have reached out to meet that demand.

And now for the “because of COVID” successes. In general, the pandemic has driven many more people into Grand County, especially during the summer months. Many of our businesses, from lodging providers, to Realtors, to retailers and tourist-servers, this summer has been very good. The simple truth is that the numbers of visitors here over the last four months suggests strongly that Grand County and resort-rural Colorado have been discovered.

Consider just for a second the crowded beaches on all of Lake Granby over the summer. I’ve never seen it like that before. Consider the numbers of cars parked at fishing pull-off spots in the county. There were more than ever. Consider the traffic jams from Granby to Winter Park to Berthoud Pass on Sundays this summer. I’ve never seen them like that, and so consistently, before.

So when the Town of Granby announces that their retail sales were actually up for much of the third quarter, that’s a real trend. It’s a county wide phenomenon.

The real problem with all this is an old problem. Many businesses simply could not staff for the business they faced this summer. Some didn’t even open for lack of help, partly because foreign workers weren’t allowed in the country due to COVID. And many that could staff really struggled keeping customers happy with limited staffing.

It was tough.

The other contributing factor is the real estate boom we are seeing. Homes aren’t on the market for long in Grand County. Inventory isn’t exactly over flowing. Visitors continue, largely through short term rental situations, to take up what we used to offer for local or employee housing. So homes, property and some commercial real estate in general aren’t less expensive because of the pandemic, they are more expensive and increasingly limited. (There are exceptions in the commercial realm, but that’s a different story.)

So Grand County is still an enterprising place to be with unique and amplified challenges because of COVID-19. I hope that in a year from now we can put COVID behind us and embrace whatever the “new normal” might bring.

Patrick Brower is the Enterprise Facilitator for the Grand Enterprise Initiative. He offers free and confidential business management coaching to anyone who wants to start or expand a business in Grand County. He can be reached by calling 970-531-0632 or at patrickbrower@kapoks.org.






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