A Scranton Tomorrow project born out of necessity during the early phases of Pennsylvania’s shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic this spring has been so successful that it will continue through the remainder of the year.
Leslie Collins, executive director of Scranton Tomorrow, developed Countertop Conversations using Zoom to connect local business owners, community leaders, non-profit and economic development organizations. As its name implies, she created the plan while working remotely in her home office (aka, the kitchen counter).
“At the onset of the pandemic, we knew that it was critical to keep communication open between members of the Downtown Scranton Business District, public officials, community leaders, financial professionals, and business consultants,” she said. “Countertop Conversations was the perfect way to do that because all it requires is an internet connection and a laptop or phone.”
Since April, Scranton Tomorrow has hosted 5 sessions with as many as 65 participants representing retail, health and wellness, restaurant and hospitality, tourism, professional services, non-profit organizations, local government institutions and higher education.
Guests have included Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti, City of Scranton, Chief of Police Carl Graziano, Scranton Police Department, Chris Collins, principal, Kistler Tiffany Benefits, a OneDigital Health and Benefits Company, and multiple business consultants from The University of Scranton Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Topics have ranged from the application process for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other funding sources, to strategies for transitioning from the red to yellow and green phases of re-opening.
“One of the many challenges business owners have encountered during this crisis is access to reliable, accurate information. Our special guests alleviated much of that problem because they shared the latest information, and provided invaluable resources throughout the process, from the initial shutdown through each phase of re-opening,” Leslie said. After each session, participants receive an email recap of important points, and Scranton Tomorrow’s Business Resource Page is updated with links and contacts covered in the meeting.
“The response from the business community has been so positive that we’re going to continue Countertop Conversations through the end of the year. As the economic development organization for Downtown Scranton, we’re committed to this level of support as long the business community needs it,” Leslie said.
To register for the next Countertop Conversation, email Leslie Collins.