Embracing the Change
(Continued from eNewsroom)
Watch for registration details for a new Economic Development Council webinar planned for June 11 with Jason Barrett, CEO, Flagler Health+, discussing how to safely re-open. We are getting back in the groove with a Virtual Chamber at Noon on Wednesday, June 17. Kevin Craig, AT&T, will discuss 5G. Coordinated by the Ponte Vedra Beach Division of the Chamber, the webinar’s relevant and timely information will be easily accessible for all Chamber members as well as recorded and shared later.
Your Chamber has also been actively collaborating with strategic partners for our successful recovery and re-opening. Strong business/government partnerships are critical to our community’s successful re-opening plans. Leadership is critical when challenging times test our community. I am proud to be a St. Johns County resident and to see how our community leaders are collaborating.
The St. Johns County’s Economic Recovery Response Team was formed in early April with representatives from the Chamber of Commerce, City of St. Augustine, Visitors and Convention Bureau and others to support our established businesses and workforce in recovery efforts. Addressing the critical need in navigating economic recovery efforts, partners joined forces to provide information and resources for businesses, employers, employees, residents, and visitors to safely re-open. Businesses, residents and visitors can access a roadmap which includes information and links to COVID-19 Metrics, Business Assistance and Cares Act Resources, Business Openings, Job Opportunities and more at the Chamber’s website here.
Joy Andrews, Assistant County Administrator, shared the county’s need to assist our businesses and residents alike. St. Johns County established a Business Assistance Hotline and a Residents Assistance Hotline to aid in recovery efforts. Two food drives were held to restock nearly 20 local food pantries. The County’s Small Business Emergency Assistance Grant, Back to Business Grant, Rapid Reopen Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Assistance and Shop and Dine Programs are important initiatives all underway along with a temporary Commercial Fee Relief Initiative in place to further stimulate the economy. The County issues daily updates, advisories, and announcements along with its list of financial resources for businesses impacted by COVID-19 from County Administrator Hunter S. Conrad. Visit the website at https://www.sjcfl.us/coronavirus/index.aspx .
Attracting visitors back to St. Johns County is a key shared goal by the Response Team. The St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra & The Beaches Visitors & Convention Bureau (VCB) has promoted healthy travel information on its website. The City of St. Augustine provides personal protection equipment (PPE) face masks for businesses and visitors to purchase and approved the use of parking for outdoor dining when 25 percent capacity for restaurants was restricting them from being profitable. The City of St. Augustine Beach has also approved an emergency ordinance allowing for fee-free, expedited outdoor seating permits to help restaurants get back on their feet.
Named the healthiest county in Florida in 2019, St. Johns County took the epidemic seriously from day one, never became a “hotspot,” and continues its efforts to remain a safe and healthy community.
The County Commission approved loaning $2 million in the current fiscal year from the General Fund into the marketing budget for the Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB) to meet the extraordinary messaging needs during the recovery from the pandemic. Richard Goldman, president/CEO, VCB, and his board intend to ensure that our visitors know that St. Johns county remains a very safe destination and that we offer natural, wide-open spaces within driving distance.
President and CEO, St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce