If 2020 taught us anything, it’s how to regroup and pivot quickly when circumstances change.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve done our best to support the downtown Scranton business community by maintaining open communication, connecting them with much-needed resources and creating initiatives to boost the local economy.

Every day, we’ve been impressed – and touched – by their strength, resilience, determination and commitment to this city.

It has inspired us to stay focused on what’s most important, and continue to press forward, even on the most challenging days. this spirit in mind, here’s a glimpse into what we’ve done, and what we aspire to do, into the start of the new year:

• Online business resources: In the spring of 2020, we created a new business resources page on our website featuring details on each phase of the state’s reopening, and links to government agencies, health and safety resources, financial resources and community partners.

By fall, we realized one page was no longer adequate. So we expanded our business resources page into a full section, populated with content that will save business owners time as they search for personal protective equipment supplies, updates to health and safety regulations and funding opportunities.

We will continue to listen to feedback from the business community, and do our best to post information that is most relevant to them. Visit www.scrantontomorrow.org/businessresources for details.

• Countertop conversations: Initially launched as a temporary project, countertop conversations are Zoom sessions that bring members of the downtown Scranton business district together to brainstorm, problem-solve and network. We welcomed guests including Mayor Paige Cognetti, members of the the University of Scranton Small Business Development Center and local experts in the financial and insurance industries. Countertop conversations were so well received that we plan to continue them into 2021. It’s true — the best ideas are born around the kitchen table. We encourage business owners who want to join the conversation to drop us a line at leslie@scrantontomorrow.org.

• Online directories: We had a “Field of Dreams” moment last summer: “If you build it, they will come.”

So, we built downtown Scranton dining and shopping guides on our website.

These online directories take our support local promotions to the next level.

Now, when we say “shop local,” we can take you to nearly 100 retailers in the business district in one click. When we say “dine local,” you’ll find more than 50 restaurants, pubs and cafés.

Each listing includes links to the establishment’s website, social media and Google map location and, as an added bonus, we’ve also included direct links to delivery apps in the dining guide.

We provide these free listings as a service to the downtown Scranton business district during COVID-19. We encourage everyone in the community to bookmark these pages, and continue to support local: www.scrantontomorrow.org/downtownshopping and www.scrantontomorrow.org/downtowndining.

• Targeted campaigns: To be effective last year, marketing plans had to pivot, too. We modified our seasonal efforts with increased social media outreach and new campaigns showcasing the added ways customers may choose to shop and dine this year.

As part of Light Up Downtown Scranton, we kicked off the holiday shopping season with our downtown drive-through promotion, reminding everyone that many businesses in the downtown offer curbside and delivery services, including retailers.

We plan to run downtown drive-through again, and may also revive Shop Your Way. This initiative promoted more than 30 downtown Scranton retailers offering in-person, online, shopping by appointment, curbside pick-up and delivery during the holiday season.

We are grateful to the Light Up Downtown Scranton media partners, including The Times-Tribune, which contributed to the success of the campaign.

These are a few examples of how we plan to continue to support the local business community into the new year. Advocacy for the downtown business district will also continue to be a priority, from funding opportunities to preservation and quality of life matters and more.

None of us know what the future holds, but we hope that in sharing some of these plans it will instill a bit of peace knowing that we’ll all move forward, together.

Leslie Collins is the Executive Director of Scranton Tomorrow, a community nonprofit.

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