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Engaging local business in COVID-19

Part of a series on Place-Based Responses to COVID-19

The starting point for local councils amid the COVID-19 pandemic should be to first understand how local businesses are affected. Only then can a valuable response be developed.

As with many aspects of this crisis, the weaknesses in our systems exacerbate the problems we experience. In this case, local governments that don’t have a good means of communicating or engaging with their local business community now have little idea about how the crisis is affecting them. This leads them to defining a response on the fly and based on assumptions that may simply be untrue. Creating a platform to engage with the business community is always important, more so in a crisis.

While some councils have consulted with business representative organisations, such as local chambers and business associations, others have launched local business surveys. Other councils have created a platform for regular, continuing business engagement to understand how businesses are responding to changing conditions over time. Others, too, are using social media, such as Facebook Groups, to provide an online platform for sharing information and experiences.

Local business surveys

Many councils have initiated a local business survey to understand how COVID-19 and the policies of containment have affected them.

  • Adelaide Business Support Survey: The City of Adelaide (SA) COVID-19 Small Business Task Force is conducting a survey of local businesses to assess the impact COVID-19 has had business and the level of support that businesses require during this period.
  • COVID-19 Logan Business Impact Survey: The City of Logan (Qld) has launched a survey is to find out how Logan businesses have been impacted by the current COVID-19 restrictions, and to identify ways Logan City Council can help businesses.
  • COVID-19 Business Insights Questionnaire: The City of Toronto (Canada) with the Toronto Region Board of Trade have developed a regular online survey instrument to regularly check-in with local businesses to ‘stay current on specific pain points and identify relief measures needed now and in a post-COVID-19 recovery period’. The bi-weekly Business Insights Questionnaire will help the City better understand specific impacts on businesses related to the current crisis, supports needed to keep businesses afloat, and the effectiveness of measures implemented by all three levels of government to provide relief. Individual responses will be kept strictly confidential.
  • Melbourne Virtual Business Support Summit: The City of Melbourne (Vic) organise a virtual business support summit on Thursday, 16 April 2020. Over 600 representatives from Melbourne’s small and medium business community logged on to hear a panel of experts share their thoughts on how to get through this unprecedented time. Over 100 questions were received and are summarised on the website.
  • The City of Brimbank (Vic) COVID-19 Business Support Survey aims to gain an understanding of how COVID-19 (coronavirus) is impacting local business. Data collected will be used to inform government on action and advocacy for assistance, and short and long-term recovery priorities.

Facebook Groups

While many councils have a general Facebook Group for the broader local community, several have recently established groups that are specifically focussed on the local business community and issues arising from COVID-19: For example, the Shire of Northam (WA) has setup a Business Community Support Group for local business to communicate directly with officers; as have the City of Brisbane (Qld) with theFacebook Business Group to connect local business with the right tools and advice to support each other.

Local Business Barometer

The MyPlaceMatters Local Business Barometer has been designed specifically to improve the way governments engage with and identify the concerns of the local business community. The barometer––based on models used in other countries––is an on-line platform for monitoring and engaging with your local business community. It helps you to regularly ‘take the pulse’ of local businesses and understand current trends, common issues and problems, and identify emerging economic opportunities.

Other articles is this series on Place-Based Responses to COVID-19

For other articles is this series on Place-Based Responses to COVID-19 see:


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