First in Future: The Impact on Small Business and The Response

Summary: Leslie Boney, Director of the Institute for Emerging Issues, hosts a series of virtual conversations discussing the impacts of coronavirus (COVID-19) and some of the ways our state is responding.
Joining us for part three of the series with State Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake), State Rep. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance), Kevin Price (President/CEO of The Institute NC), and Kit Cramer (President/CEO of Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce) as they discuss the impact of COVID-19 on small businesses around the state.

*This episode of First in Future was recorded on Thursday, April 2, and reflects information that was up-to-date at that time.*

View the slides here.

Listen to the podcast or Watch Zoom Video.

Highlights & Resources

  • Small businesses employ nearly half of the people in NC and this issue has hit them particularly hard.
  • Based on a national study, 193,000 people were unemployed or furloughed in NC by March 21 – particularly hospitality & recreation industries


Kevin Price (President/CEO of The Institute NC)
10:12 – 26:50

  • There’s so much information out there that many small businesses are confused. How to filter the info so people can figure out where to go for the right resources?
  • Did a survey on impacts on small businesses – 90% of them have less than 10 employees – 72% are still operational – 41% say they will close within 30 days – hardest hit industry was professional services and consulting
  • One bright spot: a marketplace to build momentum for companies highlighted a delivery wine company and they went from 0 sales to 130 bottles a day
  • In the federal stimulus package, Kevin is encouraged by paycheck protection program for companies who need immediate relief, and that it’s covering for-profits and nonprofits
  • Good news: construction is deemed essential so it can continue; governor announced utilities will stay on for business & residential
  • General plea to buy local, buy small, buy diverse
  • Importance of shortening of payment cycles: corporations typically take 30 days to pay suppliers – we’re suggesting as a good corporate citizen, maybe revisit that and shorten that window to 15 days or less if possible to get more cash in the hands of small businesses 


Kit Cramer (President/CEO of Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce)
26:53 – 38:59

  • A lot of small businesses in Asheville area, especially in the hospitality industry
  • Some restaurants were nimble and adapted to carry out/delivery – but have to be big enough and have enough working capital to do that
  • New foundation serving 18 western counties – Dogwood Health Trust – is putting $10M into the regional effort – creating PPE, feeding people, etc.
  • Asheville Area Chamber started virtual town halls – at first helping people understand safety and shifted into business continuity information
  • Also shifted messaging to what is most helpful to their members – public policy interpretation, blogs, curated resource guide
  • One Buncombe fund – providing immediate bridge support through loans for small biz and $1K grants for people who were laid off – now at over $700K and want to get over 1M – bridging the gap until state/fed relief can kick in
  • What do members care about? Looking for clear, immediate guidance. Want to know definitions – what is essential, who’s eligible for unemployment, business relief to flow with minimum of bureaucracy and as fast as humanly possible. Also looking at existing debt, deferral of taxes/utility payments – getting creative.


State Rep. Stephen Ross (R-Alamance)
State Sen. Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake)
39:08 – 55:00

State Rep. Ross:

  • Employment office was running 3,000 apps a week and now 150K a week – staff & systems were designed for smaller number – need capacity & clarity
  • Agencies are adapting fast but the magnitude is so great – even if they’re trying to go fast, it can seem slow
  • A lot of legislation will already be drafted and ready to act on first day back in general assembly
  • Many of the calls are about who are essential businesses – check the executive order list that shows some exemptions
  • Bipartisan committees were created to address these issues because it’s a crisis that everyone recognizes needs bipartisan work – a time to come together
  • Hopeful that we’ll learn some things about working together. Crisis has pushed us into a position where that’s what we have to do
  • Need to move forward on legislation to correct rural broadband issue


State Sen. Chaudhuri:

  • Bridge loans can be turned around in 2 weeks – concern is that federal help will take time – state needs to step in and bridge that gap
  • Bridge loans play an important role in stabilizing businesses while they wait for federal money to come in
  • Now there’s bipartisan agreement on how to focus the immediate response. Will likely see a longer-term debate on issues – broadband, health care – that will need to be revisited
  • In the longer term, we’ll see a more dramatic effect on the economy – hopes the focus stays on small businesses – the time of globalization is over
  • Could be an opportunity to return to local – put people back to work to be self-sufficient as a state



  • (“Navigating your business through COVID-19”)
  • (“Business Relief Resources” and “Immediate Job Openings”) 
  • (“Coronavirus Resource Guide”)