Loans and grants to 422 Colorado Springs area businesses and nonprofits helped save nearly 8,000 jobs at risk after those organizations were temporarily closed by state restrictions stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, a study found.
The loans totaled $5.43 million and helped businesses survive that generate $757 million in annual economic activity. The 7,965 jobs that were preserved through the programs include employees of those 422 businesses and nonprofits as well as jobs supported by spending of those employees; in all, they account for about 18% of the 43,848 jobs at 4,469 businesses found to be most at risk of permanent closure in a study performed by Summit Economics, a local economic research and consulting firm, for the city of Colorado Springs. The study, released Monday, found that those businesses at risk of closure generate $4.8 billion in economic output and $33.8 million in local sales tax revenue annually.
Exponential Impact, Pikes Peak Community Foundation, Downtown Development Authority and El Paso County all started or funded loan and grant programs in the wake of the pandemic's spread to help local businesses avoid permanent closure. Thousands of businesses across the state ranging from bars and restaurants to medical offices, gyms, barbers and many retailers were forced to close in mid-March by a stay-at-home order to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“These four organizations stepped up quickly and effectively at a time when our community clearly needed them,” Mayor John Suthers said Monday in a news release. “By acting swiftly to make funding available through a simple and efficient process, and by focusing on those industries that have been most impacted, these groups provided immediate relief and support that will resonate for the next several years both for these organizations and for their employees.”
Exponential Impact worked with the Pikes Peak Community Foundation, the Lane Foundation, the Colorado Springs Chamber & EDC, the city of Colorado Springs and Colorado Springs Utilities to launch Survive and Thrive COS. The 3-month-old program provided $2.3 million in low-interest rate loans with flexible repayment terms to 132 small businesses and nonprofits hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic." Suthers called the funds "a lifeline to businesses that were severely threatened by the pandemic" during a news conference on the study.
"The impact of the pandemic will reverberate for years," said Natasha Main, executive director of Exponential Impact. "Forty percent of the workforce depends on small business for a paycheck, so we wanted to provide immediate bridge funding to support the local economy. We focused our efforts on southeast Colorado Springs and arts and cultural organizations."
El Paso County also set aside $14 million of federal coronavirus relief funds it received for a variety of economic assistance programs, including $8.3 million for grants to businesses, $4 million for job training and placement support, and $1.4 million in grants to chambers of commerce and other business support groups. About $900,000 has been granted to 128 businesses and another $7.6 million is still available for additional grants to hundreds of businesses.
“As a region, we stepped up to provide critical funding through grants and loan programs to help small businesses remain resilient and persevere,” El Paso County Commission chairman Mark Waller said in the release. "Small business is the backbone of our economy."
The downtown authority made $670,000 grants to 95 businesses, ranging from independent restaurants and local retail shops, salons, fitness centers and other businesses, said Downtown Partnership CEO Susan Edmondson. About 90% of the businesses in the downtown area are small and most are locally owned, so more of the income those businesses generate stays in the area for a longer period, she said.
The Pikes Peak Community Foundation made grants totaling $1.3 million to about 50 nonprofits from its Emergency Relief Fund.