In this unprecedented time of coronavirus, we need to be there for local businesses

Maribel Perez Wadsworth and Kevin Gentzel, USA Today NetworkPublished 5:27 p.m. ET March 18, 2020

To emerge from this with our communities strong and intact, we need to ensure that what make them special — our small businesses — stay afloat.

Our news organizations have always had a special relationship with their local business community.

Reporters keep tabs on what’s moving in and out, chronicling the changing face of Main Street and the stalwart businesses that have spanned generations. Sales representatives work closely with local businesses to help them promote their goods and services, celebrate their successes and offer deals to new customers. We sponsor many community events, and our leaders serve on local business associations.

As America has seemingly shut down overnight with the spreading coronavirus pandemic, our local business community has acutely felt the loss of its customers and its community.

Restaurants that were bustling until just days ago, preparing for patio weather and taking reservations for upcoming birthdays and work events, now sit empty and unsure of when diners will next pass through their doors.

Local gyms and day care facilities, which increased their cleaning regimens in recent weeks, have made the difficult decision to close in the hopes that it’s only temporary.

Countless downtown storefronts that relied heavily on foot traffic that isn’t there anymore are looking at their bottom lines, wondering how long they can weather the storm.

And so it is at this precipitous time that we’re reaching out to implore our communities to offer a strong show of support for their local businesses. Just as we are doing all we can to bring vital news and information to help keep residents safe through this crisis, we feel just as strongly about supporting the local business community.

The safety measures that have forced us indoors and away from others to help stop the spread of COVID-19 are the right thing to do. We’re confident our strength and resilience will carry us through. But we also recognize our small business owners need us more than ever as they take their own precautions.

To emerge from this with our communities strong and intact, we need to ensure that what make them special — the coffee shop down the road, the local car dealership and our neighborhood music teachers — are able to stay afloat.

While we may not be able to give them our patronage in person right now, there is much we can do to show our support.

Visit your favorite restaurant’s website and purchase gift cards for yourself and others to keep some money flowing to their bottom lines. If those restaurants are still offering takeout or delivery, make a point to order from them now and again soon. And get gift cards for massage studios, arts and crafts stores, local jungle gyms and myriad other businesses.

If you’re shopping online for things you’ll need while in self-quarantine, like home exercise equipment or activities for the kids, seek out local businesses to make these purchases.

If you use a service provider who won’t be needed or can’t provide that service right now — a dog walker, house cleaner, day care provider, a lawn service or any of the other folks who keep our lives in order and make them better — consider paying the person or company regardless so they’ll be there for you again when this is over.

Also, visit the websites of your favorite local businesses, and you’ll find that many are offering discounts or telling their customers how they can assist. Many are getting creative and changing their business models already to offer services remotely or shipping their merchandise to their customers.

We’re also committed to doing our part and will introduce new tools in the coming days to help facilitate support for the business community.

At a time when much feels out of our control, there’s plenty we can do to help our local businesses survive this.

In recent days, we’ve all seen the incredible efforts they’ve taken for us, from additional cleaning to limited hours to ample hand sanitizer at the checkout. Now, let’s do what we can do for them.

–– Maribel Perez Wadsworth is president of Gannett’s news division 

–– Kevin Gentzel is president of Gannett’s advertising division

Need to start or move your business?