HANNIBAL | Local businesses have been temporarily closing their doors or laying off employees in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Engine manufacturer Spartan Light Metal Products plans to lay off 72 employees at its Hannibal manufacturing plant.
Company officials cited a decline in demand brought on by automotive manufacturers shuttering their operations. The company hopes to resume normal production as the situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic improves, and they will provide near-term health insurance to employees affected by the temporary layoff.
Hannibal Regional Economic Development Council Executive Director Corey Mehaffy said local agencies and stakeholders are working every day to assist business owners and their employees during rapidly changing times.
Mehaffy said a team of 30 local agencies,i ncluding the Hannibal Regional Healthcare System, Hannibal Parks and Recreation Department and Hannibal Chamber of Commerce, are dedicated to providing resources and support to employers and their employees.
Mehaffy said the Missouri Chamber of Commerce is working to assist Spartan Light Metal Products officials and affected employees through the Rapid Response Team. He directly reached out to the company, and the HRHS and other agencies send out daily updates to help everyone stay up-to-date on the latest findings amid the pandemic. Community members also can look into support like the Shared Work Program designed to limit layoffs and resources for displaced workers at HREDC's COVID- 19 webpage.
“Company officials, along with all of our major employers in the area, have been receiving daily emails with information on assistance programs as they become available,” Mehaffy said.
Jason Monnig reached out to Mehaffy to let him know of available positions at the Wright City Monnig Industries location. Mehaffy also recommended people contact the Hannibal Job Center at 573-248-2520 to find about local job openings.
“That's been one of the silver linings in this ... everyone coming together to share resources and make sure everything that is available is getting out there to businesses in our community,” Hannibal Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director McKenzie Disselhorst said. “We know we have had a good relationship with our community partners before, but this has certainly even strengthened it from that.”
Disselhorst said the team effort to get business and practical resources has been a direct reflection of a strong sense of community to get through the crisis together.
Disselhorst recently sent out a survey to local businesses to “check everybody's pulse” with their comments and how they were responding to the current situation. She said only 4% of respondents said the current health crisis could put them out of business. While Disselhorst doesn't want to see any businesses closed, that low number speaks to the strength of the business community.
Support for local businesses might look different with social distancing and public gathering restrictions in place, but Disselhorst said community members can still purchase gift cards, order carryout meals, leave good ratings online and share comments on social media outlets like Facebook. She said those actions all make a positive impact for local business owners during uncertain times.
“Send them a note, let them know that you miss them and that you can't wait for them to be back open,” Disselhorst said. “That kind of support is really important right now too.”
Disselhorst said she's been encouraging local business owners to step back for a moment from serious tasks to think about the “happier things” such as using technology for meetings, along with what the future holds — “When you get back open, what are you going to do differently? How are you going to celebrate being back open?”
Disselhorst said community partners are helping in many ways inside the business sector and out, including meal distribution efforts for children and adults. Walmart and community members donated sidewalk chalk to give to children, so they can post inspiring artwork to the #HannibalProud Facebook page. Hannibal Parks and Recreation is helping with suggestions for fun activities children and their families can take part in as they share more time together.
Susan Berti, administrative assistant with the Palmyra Chamber of Commerce, has been making sure to post regular updates to the organization's Facebook page, including the latest information regarding the COVID-19 crisis and events or sales at local businesses and positive reminders for everyone in the community.
“We're doing a lot of things that make you feel a little bit better, like have patience right now, check on your neighbors, check on people who are at risk,” Berti said, stressing that the top agenda item for the chamber's Tuesday online meeting is “what are ways the chamber can help its members?”
Berti agreed with Disselhorst and Mehaffy that everyone is working together to share information, resources and look ahead for future solutions.