As Gov. Brian Kemp’s shelter-in-place order expires and those of us who have been fortunate enough to work remotely begin returning to our offices, it is hard to imagine what this “new normal” will look like in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the last several weeks, the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority (ECIDA) has been in frequent communication with our industrial businesses, many of whom were deemed essential by the Department of Homeland Security or United States Department of Agriculture. These industries have continued to supply fresh and frozen foods, ingredients used for the medical industry and tissue products for the consumer market.
What have I learned from these existing industries who continue to go to work to make sure that we have food on our tables, that our nurses and doctors have the proper medical equipment to care for patients and keep our homes stocked with paper products? I learned that we are a community full of tough, hardworking and compassionate individuals.
In the first week of sheltering in place, I spoke with one of our industry owners to check in and see how they were doing. I wanted to make sure that they had the most up-to-date information from the governor’s office, as well as information on aid that may be available to them should they need to temporarily suspend operations.
When asked how they were doing, this company owner said, “The tough times don’t last, but tough people do.” I immediately felt admiration for someone facing such uncertainty to have such an encouraging outlook.
As I reached out to more and more of our existing industries, this outlook on matters continued to be a common theme. Our industries knew that the products they were producing or distributing were essential to keeping our economy going, and keeping our grocery stores stocked with food and household paper products.
Despite the challenges, our industries were facing with keeping their employees safe and also fulfilling orders for these essential products, some of our companies wanted to know how they could help the community. They wanted to know if they could donate excess N95 masks, or if they could deliver meals or snacks to our hospital or first responders. These folks wanted to help other industries with policies to handle the new way of conducting daily operations to ensure that their employees, customers, and visitors were safe. These folks were in the middle of their own hardships with the pandemic, and all the while still wanted to know how they could pitch in to help the community. It is truly humbling to see a community come together to support one another despite their own unique and challenging situations.
While it is the mission of the ECIDA to support our existing industries, during this unprecedented time our existing industries have been working hard to support all of us as well. The ECIDA partnered with our regional development authorities in Bryan, Bulloch, Chatham and Screven counties to brainstorm new ways we could support our existing industries, and better serve our community. To that end, the collaboration resulted in a regional jobs board where those workers negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can more easily connect with industrial job openings in the area. Those interested in learning more about these job openings can visit savannahjda.com/job-opportunities. You may also find this link, along with a variety of other local, state, and federal resources on the ECIDA’s COVID-19 resources page at effinghamindustry.com/covid-19-resources.
As we begin to return to a new state of normal, let us remember to be grateful for all essential workers and companies, including our existing industries, who made it a little easier for us to remain safe and comfortable during this challenging time.
Jessica Hood is the director of Economic Development and Existing Industry for the Effingham County Industrial Development Authority.