We are now just over one year into the coronavirus pandemic and thanks to the diligent work of our public health experts, front-line and essential workers, state leadership and countless others, the hope of moving to a new “normal” feels more realistic than ever.
And while we are all anxiously awaiting for that time to arrive, we should be sure to proceed with caution.
COVID-19 has revealed many things about the strengths and weaknesses of our state and nation, and one of the weaknesses we have seen firsthand at the North Carolina Rural Center is the fragile and uncertain economic foundation supporting our state’s small business owners.
Don’t get us wrong: Many of those issues were already present and negatively affecting small businesses well before the onset of COVID-19 in 2020. What we have seen, however, is that many of those issues were greatly exacerbated by the pandemic, leaving some of our state’s small businesses shuttered and many others struggling to survive.
As we find a new “normal,” we cannot go back to “business as usual” in the way we support North Carolina’s small business owners and entrepreneurs.
At our 2021 Rural Summit, we announced the launch of the North Carolina Small Business Coalition and the accompanying policy agenda, “North Carolina’s New Small Business Plan,” drafted by the Small Business Policy Task Force, a statewide group of entrepreneurs, small business advocates and policymakers all dedicated to empowering North Carolina’s entrepreneurial ecosystem.
The policy recommendations outlined in “North Carolina’s New Small Business Plan,” and championed by the Small Business Coalition, provide a bipartisan roadmap to a stronger, more equitable and more vibrant small business ecosystem in North Carolina. The plan covers four primary pillars — funding, opportunity, knowledge and support — and was formed hand-in-hand with policymakers, business leaders and leading data and research experts, and by the wisdom and guidance of small business owners across the state.
For North Carolina, especially rural North Carolina, to thrive after COVID-19, we have to take every effort possible to support our small businesses, their employees and the communities they serve.
“North Carolina’s New Small Business Plan” puts forth actionable recommendations to help all of our state’s entrepreneurs and small business owners have equal access to the capital, resources and tools needed to prosper.
The choice is ours. We do not have to return to “business as usual” in North Carolina. Instead, we can work together to build something better — and “North Carolina’s New Small Business Plan” outlines how we can do just that, and get more small businesses back on a solid foundation and on the road to a brighter, more sustainable future. The North Carolina Small Business Coalition is the way you can help. Will you join us?
Visit bit.ly/small-biz-coalition to learn more.
Patrick Woodie is president of the N.C. Rural Center, a nonprofit organization whose loans invest in rural economic development.
Brandy Bynum Dawson is the N.C. Rural Center’s senior director of policy and advocacy.
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