As our economic recovery tends to fluctuate with every pronouncement about COVID-19, two programs in Coconino County are working to bring local businesses closer to “normal” during this difficult time.
The first is a partnership between Coconino County and Northern Arizona University to provide COVID Aware Enhanced Food Handler’s Certification, with training and testing to all food service industry employers and employees at no cost.
Chris Vasquez Pasterz, Economic Development Manager for the County says the online course has three major benefits for the hard-hit industry sector:
- Providing training derived from the latest health guidance and state/local proclamations and executive orders;
- Increasing safe practices for customers, employees and the community; and
- Promoting customer confidence, as businesses that register for and successfully complete the training will receive a certified COVID Aware decal that they can print and display on their business window. They will also be listed on the Coconino County Health and Human Service (CCHHS) webpage.
Meanwhile, CCHHS continues to offer Basic Business Empowerment (BBE), a 9-week business plan development program that allows participants to master skills to transform business ideas into startups, or to help existing businesses strategize for expansion.
The weekly classes are geared towards small businesses with up to five employees, also known as “microbusinesses.” Businesses with 1-4 employees make up a whopping 57% of all companies in Coconino County, according to the Arizona Prospector website
A new focus in the BBE program now concerns small businesses that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, said CCHHS Program Manager Scott Neuman.
“Our current BBE classes also aim to assist microbusinesses that were doing well prior to COVID-19 but now need to engage in a strategic pivot,” he said. “Some of these businesses just need a temporary shift, while others should consider revising their business plans to make permanent changes.”
BBE is offered four times a year at a cost of $125, and scholarships are available based on need. The next BBE training session will be Aug. 4 – Sept. 29.
We are fortunate to be in a community where forward-thinking government and educational institutions are working to ensure the recovery of restaurants and microbusinesses, two vital sectors of our local economy.