Orem council approves downtown district 02

Business signs stand as traffic flows Wednesday, June 27, 2018, just south of the intersection of State and Center Streets in Orem. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

The 12-mile stretch of State Street in Orem and its crossroad University Parkway are checkered with small businesses that help keep city coffers afloat in sales tax revenue and help make Orem a vibrant retail backbone of Utah County.

In a Daily Herald story printed March 1, Orem’s financial director Brandon Nelson made the following statement in reference to the budget process for the 2020-21 fiscal year:

“Orem is doing very well financially, but signs of financial unrest nationally, a natural disaster or a city emergency, could change that instantly,” Nelson said.

His words were prophetic.

In February, financial consultant Laura Lewis, with Lewis, Young, Robertson and Burningham, reported to the City Council about data she gathered on Orem’s long-term financial sustainability to 2040.

According to the analysis, Orem has a great retail center and healthy sales tax revenue.

“Revenues fluctuate with the economy,” Lewis said. “If the state changes the (tax) formula, there will be a more service-based economy. The impact from any future changes in the formula is unknown.”

Lewis noted there are many things that can affect the economy. “The coronavirus could have negative impacts. You don’t know how it affects you — yet.”

For small business owners and their employees, what started as a prosperous new year has changed with the onslaught of a world pandemic. With self-quarantine, social distancing, forced closures or shortened work days, times are getting tougher and that seemingly appears to be the paradigm for the near future, according to national, state and local health and government leaders.

Kathi M. Lewis, Orem Economic Development division manager, is keeping a close eye on Orem’s small businesses and hoping things like the recent Small Business Administration loan program will help keep retailers’ doors open.

“The City of Orem and our Economic Development Division are working diligently to provide accurate and timely information about helpful resources to assist our over 5,000 businesses within our city limits,” Lewis said.

“As the retail hub of Utah County, it is crucial for the city to maintain its tax base while making sure our valued businesses remain open and successful,” Lewis added.

In a letter to Utah cities, Ryan Starks, managing director of business services with the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said cities throughout the entire state are eligible for loans.

“In partnership with Utah’s congressional delegation, the state emergency management division, and the Utah Governor’s Office, we are pleased to announce that all 29 counties in Utah are now eligible to apply for low-interest loans through the Small Business Administration,” Starks said in the letter.

“While we recognize this loan program will not solve all of our economic challenges, it will serve as an effective tool for businesses affected by COVID-19,” Starks added. “Additionally, Governor Herbert convened an economic council to discuss additional strategies to support local businesses.”

Lewis said the city cares deeply for each of its businesses and will continue to look for ways to help them navigate this difficult and trying time.

“We are hopeful that the Small Business Administration (SBA) Low Interest Loan Program will provide some needed relief to those businesses that are affected by this health crisis,” Lewis said. “We welcome and encourage residents to continue to patronize our small businesses as our current situation allows. Remember, our local businesses represent the hopes and dreams of many families.”

To apply for SBA loans, visit the following site: https://sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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