Hannibal Courier-Post

Customer spending, support programs boost area businesses

By Hannibal Courier-Post
Posted: Jul. 4, 2020 5:00 pm

HANNIBAL | Many Hannibal area businesses are seeing a positive trend in sales through factors including a collaborative effort at the local level and more customer spending from Hannibal residents and visitors from nearby states, combined with federal Small Business Administration programs and Gov. Mike Parson's Show Me Recovery plan for Missouri.

McKenzie Disselhorst, executive director of the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce, and Corey Mehaffy, executive director of the Northeast Missouri Economic Development Council, agreed a consistent level of local teamwork during the coronavirus pandemic generated ideas and provided resources to support area businesses, and new partnerships have formed between agencies to bring new opportunities after the COVID-19 pandemic has passed. As local businesses enter various stages of reopening, including dining rooms opening back up and revisions to business hours, increased consumer spending has driven positive sales trends compared to previous months.

Disselhorst said the level of uncertainty during the earlier stages of the coronavirus pandemic left a lot of questions unanswered. But SBA programs like the Paycheck Protection Program provided support so employees continued to receive paychecks and employers maintained their payrolls, while unemployment programs gave assistance for businesses that had to lay off employees. 

Brittany Weldy, entrepreneurship specialist for the Small Business Development Center at the NEMO EDC, said SBA programs are designed to benefit area businesses that couldn't otherwise obtain credit to help them stay afloat. Weldy said the SBA has two lesser-known programs available to small businesses, like Express Bridge Loans, which provides a borrower up to $25,000 through and SBA Express lender. The loan can then be refinanced into an Economic Injury Disaster Loan for lower finance rates. The other program is the Debt Relief, which pays employers six monthly payments toward existing EIDL loans or future loans, which are scheduled to be released to businesses September 26. Weldy said the SBA has passed 15 interim final rules since the start of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act on March 27. She said that shows members of “Congress are doing their best to keep these SBA programs successful and accessible to the businesses who need them most” — and some of those businesses are in the Northeast Missouri area.

“I believe we will see a lot more SBA funding activity in the future, with my help at the SBDC, and the help of local banks who are now SBA lending partners,” Weldy said.

In addition to helping businesses, these support programs boosted chances for more customer spending, Disselhorst said, pointing out that visitors from out-of-state have joined local customers.

“It's great for them to have a chance to come over and see what Hannibal has to offer, and maybe they visit a little more frequently than they had in the past,” Disselhorst said.

For example, Disselhorst said many Hannibal residents know what Quincy's businesses have to offer, and the changing situation could be attracting traffic in the other direction — from Quincy toward Hannibal. Mehaffy has seen the trend as well.

“It appears that the pent up demand caused by the shelter-in-place orders has people ready to get out of their homes and travel,” Mehaffy said.

Mehaffy said the NEMO EDC and Hannibal Convention and Visitors Bureau are working together “on a recruitment effort targeted at those who own their own aircraft,” stressing Hannibal Regional Airport is a “tremendous asset” to the area.

Disselhorst said she's excited to see Hannibal businesses reopening and moving toward a “post-pandemic” situation. Beginning in late March, many local businesses temporarily closed their doors or made changes to their operations in response to the coronavirus crisis and Gov. Mike Parson's March 24 order to follow CDC guidelines and to temporarily close nonessential businesses. Community agencies like the Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce and the NEMO EDC have kept ideas and support resources available to businesses through their regular Community Leader conference calls.

“It's been really valuable to keep a lot of us on the same page — so we know what other agencies are doing or what challenges they're having — so we can share resources and really make sure that we're not missing anything for our community or for our businesses in Hannibal,” Disselhorst said.

Mehaffy agreed with Disselhorst that partnerships formed during the calls will provide positive solutions in the Hannibal area through the pandemic and afterward.

“I think this has been one of the most important parts of the local COVID response. It was impressive to watch so many local organizations come together to react to various circumstances and work together to find the best path forward forthe community,” Mehaffy said. “Whether it was providing meals for students and families, identifying sources for PPE and cleaning supplies or identifying and sharing best practices through the BeSmart, BeSafe campaign, these organizations worked tirelessly to identify solutions and provide guidance to local businesses and citizens as needed.”

The NEMO EDC's Workforce Development Committee is also working on a partnership between Moberly Area Community College and Hannibal Area Career and Technical Center to train adult students during evenings for 20 training needs identified by about 25 area employers Mehaffy said. Classes would include welding and machine tool work, and the collaborative effort between Hannibal Public School and MACC could begin this fall.

The Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce should start seeing recent sales tax revenue totals in the upcoming month, Disselhorst said, and she encouraged people to visit the chamber's website, at www.hannibalchamber.org, which includes a COVID- 19 tab with the latest information available. The NEMO EDC's website also contains up-to-date resources about COVID- 19, at https://hredc.com, and their phone number is 573-221-1033.