Committing to the best health and safety practices, more than 350 local businesses and people have taken the “Loudoun Is Ready” pledge after local leaders launched the campaign last week.
The aim of the pledge is to promote the best health and safety practices for customers as Loudoun County's economy enters COVID-19 recovery, according to leaders from Loudoun Economic Development, Visit Loudoun and the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce.
“Opening up businesses is never going to be enough,” said Buddy Rizer, executive director for Loudoun Economic Development. “You have to get customers to come back and customers are not going to come back until they feel confident that they can safely return to their lives, by and large.”
Businesses receive no-cost marketing exposure and resources from the partnership between the three economic groups. The resources include "Loudoun Is Ready" window stickers, campaign buttons and social distancing floor markers. Participants also receive emails on the latest in health and safety standards and marketing features in the "Take Loudoun Home" campaign.
Beth Erickson, president and CEO for Visit Loudoun, said research has shown visitors are looking for destinations that have thoughtfully reopened their businesses and are committed to ensuring personal and employee safety.
“...This is important, and we want to make sure that we get it right,” Erickson said.
Tony Howard, president and CEO of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce, said parts of the region have provided recovery recommendations and suggestions for businesses. However, he said the “Loudoun Is Ready” pledge is bringing added resources to help every individual business and nonprofit. Howard said the partnership is one way his organization is helping support local businesses that have sacrificed and ailed during the pandemic.
"We think that they've really gone above and beyond to [slow] the spread of this virus in our community, and even endured some real pain in their workforce and some human pain and suffering,” Howard said. “This is a way of actually doing right by them in the long run, because they were there for this community when they would need it.”
Last week, U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said during a conference call with tourism leaders that promoting consumer confidence is key. The senator said the loan programs for small businesses have been helpful, but he conceded adjustments should be considered, including to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Kaine said some of the requests have been to extend the length of time monies can be used and to adjust how to spend money for payroll expenses.
Kaine said nearly 100,000 Virginia businesses and nonprofits received PPP loans totaling more than $12 billion as of late last week.
Another subject Kaine discussed is how air travel has also taken a hit due to the pandemic. Concession sales at Dulles International Airport are doing 3 percent of business compared to last year, an airport representative said on the conference call.
“We won't get the economy back to where we want it except for dealing with the public health emergency as well as we can,” Kaine said.
He echoed Erickson's statement that people having the confidence to travel and to get out into the community will be key to the economy rebounding.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) supports the “Loudoun Is Ready” initiative, and she said her goal for Loudoun is to remain open without having to take a step back.
“ … the goal is to remain open and walk through the phases and never have to close again,” Randall said. “What we want to do is make sure that we are helping our businesses prepare, and we are messaging our citizens that the businesses are ready to accept them back. It's not enough to just open the business. We have to also make sure that that customers are ready to come back.”