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Economic recovery team reports COVID effects on small business in Billings

Posted at 11:07 AM, Dec 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-11 13:07:37-05

Because of COVID-19, Billings Logan International Airport is running at 60 percent of what it was last year, which is better than the nationwide average of 30 percent.

That was one part of the Big Sky Economic Development Authority (BSEDA) report released Thursday.

The Yellowstone County Economic Response & Recovery team presented its progress report to the community on Zoom.

The meeting started with how COVID-19 has affected businesses.

"Party Time Plus (a business on the West End), they have decided to close their doors," said Karen Grosz, Canvas Creek Team Building owner and meeting facilitator. "And I know that we all have just a moment of shock and sadness, as we hear that news."

Mike Craighill, owner of Soup & Such, was on the Zoom call and talked about the challenges and changes for a buffet restaurant.

He and his wife have been able to keep Soup & Such open, but it needs more customers.

"Summer was tough," Craighill said. "And we were really hoping for a more robust recovery over the fall. But it just hasn't materialized right now, where we're doing roughly right around 50 to 55% of our normal sales. It's not a sustainable model."

Others have also been able to stay open.

"Even in the late June, and especially going in the second half of the year here, we've seen sales come back to maybe not normal, what we'd think, what we'd want," said Bryan Wood, president of Wood's Powr-Grip Company in Laurel. "But I'd say, 90% of that."

Some from the medical profession talked about COVID's effect on patients and on hospitals as businesses.

"I think we've learned some things through the pandemic that have catapulted us forward in ways that would have taken years to get there otherwise," said Steve Loveless, St. Vincent Healthcare president.

"As somebody else pointed out, we're a regional medical center and we have responsibility to a large (area) that we are taking care of," said Dr. Heidi Duncan, Billings Clinic family medicine physician.

"The work that you're doing now on the learning you're doing now, really has the opportunity to take our regional, medical world-class health care status, frankly, to another whole level," said BSEDA President Steve Arveschoug.

Arveschoug also talked about help for businesses with a three-year economic recovery plan.