HUDSON — The Columbia Economic Development Corporation reflected on its 2019 successes as a help during the current pandemic.
Members and speakers at the CEDC’s virtual annual meeting Wednesday took a look at the progress the CEDC made in the last year. They talked about the impact COVID has had on the local economy and on local businesses.
“This work has become even more important during the pandemic. I want to acknowledge the significant difficulty that many businesses continue to face during the pandemic. Everyone talks for the need for resilience right now; resilience for CEDC means redoubling our efforts to assist businesses and nonprofits alike,” said David Fingar, chairman of the CEDC board.
Columbia County had the lowest unemployment rate of any New York county in 2019, averaging 3.1% unemployment, CEDC president and CEO F. Michael Tucker said Thursday.
The amount of sales tax collected by the county increased by more than 8% from the year prior, Tucker said. Local organizations, companies and governments in 2019 were awarded more than four times as much in Regional Economic Development Council funding thanin 2018.
“The successes of 2019 and prior years well positioned the CEDC to respond quickly and proactively to the COVID crisis and to serve as a resource for the county and its towns and villages in supporting initial recovery efforts, and respond we did,” Tucker said.
Since March, the CEDC has worked in collaboration with the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce and the Columbia County Board of Supervisors on the Columbia Comeback Initiative to help provide information to local businesses and nonprofits during the pandemic. Tucker said during that time they have been able to make more than 30 small business and rapid recovery loans totaling more than $600,000. The CEDC provided companies with more than $25,000 in technical training.
With help from local organizations and donors, the CEDC provided more than $250,000 in small-business recovery grants to over 120 small businesses in the county by mid-April, Tucker said.
“The personal and economic pain is real. It’s lasting much longer than anyone had expected or could anticipate. As a community we need to fight off fatigue and continue to take steps to remain safe and tap into our collective resilience that is our ability to work together to adapt and change and overcome adversity. I’m proud that CEDC is helping to carry that resilience into action,” Tucker said.
Columbia-Greene Community College President Carlee Drummer was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting. She focused on how different the college looks this year due to COVID and how the needs of students have changed.
“This year, the buildings were eerily quiet, with the only sound in the corridor being that of my own footsteps. Students sending emotional emails that resonate with high anxiety about their uncertain futures and whether they will be able to find jobs that pay a living wage. My message to them is clear: Learning does not pause,” Drummer said.
The college has been responding to job needs highlighted by the pandemic by creating certificate programs to help students earn micro-credentials that would improve their job prospects, Drummer said. The college is developing micro-credentials in telehealth, workplace professionalism, entrepreneurship, leadership and hospitality management.
“We’re continuing to invest in communities all across the state as we work hard to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and build back better to strengthen and reimagine our economy,” Drummer said.
The CEDC’s next annual meeting has been scheduled for April 20, 2021.
By Natasha Vaughn