AKRON, Ohio — The Rubber City is looking for ways to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic through a new initiative called Akron[RE]bound, recently launched by the Akron/Summit Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The effort is meant to help the local hospitality and tourism sector during this difficult time.
The site provides links to business interruption and economic injury disaster loans, offers suggestions on how to connect with customers via social media, gives ideas for virtual tours and includes a resource guide for COVID-19.
"We wanted to do this now so when we're ready to rebound, it's in place and it wasn't like, 'Oh, let's figure that out now.' We took advantage of this time we have now to be prepared, have people working through this to come out in the best position possible," said Gregg Mervis, the president and CEO of ASVCB.
Many Summit County small businesses are struggling, including restaurants, which are only doing delivery or carryout. Workers at non-essential businesses continue to wonder when they will be able to re-open. Governor Mike DeWine extended his stay-at-home order until May 1.
"I think we all have that fear that there are some businesses that won't be able to survive and that would be terribly unfortunate and our hope is that this will in some way give them a little bit of a boost," Mervis said.
Phase two of Akron[RE]bound will focus helping the community to thrive by implementing strategies to improve tourism and bring people back to businesses when normal activities resume.
"Our hope is when this is in the rear view mirror that we will gather and travel again," Mervis said.
Sean Joyce, the president of Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, said the coronavirus has cost the the iconic estate between $100,00 and $200,000. Many weddings, receptions and corporate events have been pushed back or canceled. A huge Easter egg hunt scheduled for April 11 had to be called off.
"A thousand people were supposed to be coming so we refunded all those tickets," Joyce said.
Joyce said a gala event was moved to from June to August and the virus has caused uncertainty over the annual Father's Day car show that brings in 8,000 people.
"Our special events are huge for us. They're about 25% of our revenue," he said.
Joyce believes the effort by ASVCB will be beneficial in keeping the community updated on what's happening as well assist business owners in need.
"We definitely are trying to take advantage of the opportunities to get some funding to help offset those losses," Joyce added.
While the exact timing on the Akron area's rebound remains uncertain, Joyce feels confident the bounce back will happen.
"Don't forget about us and we'll be ready when the time comes to welcome everybody back in."