ALBANY — It’s the ultimate Catch-22.
Business owners are told they must meet specific guidelines in order to stay open for business, yet those guidelines hinder or all but put a dead stop to commerce. The businesses pay the lion’s share of tax money it takes to operate a city, but with restrictions curtailing business transactions, there’s less and less income to tax.
“People have said that pushing to have live events, to keep businesses operating, is putting money ahead of people’s health,” Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau Executive Director Rashelle Beasley said recently. “That’s just not it. The bottom line is that businesses are the lifeblood of a community. If businesses can’t operate, people can’t work. If people can’t work, they can’t spend.
“If people aren’t spending, there’s no tax money to collect. It’s the ‘trickle-up’ theory of economics.”
Beasely knows all too what she’s talking about. All she has to do is point out some of the events in Albany that have been canceled because of concerns — or government dictates — surrounding the coronavirus pandemic to make her point. The top nine or so of those events have led to economic losses amounting to around $6.5 million.
“It’s amazing, but we haven’t heard of a lot of businesses that have said they’re hanging it up, closing their doors,” Beasley said while discussing the economic downturn wrought by the pandemic. “But a lot of them have said they are really struggling. The reality is that, if things don’t turn around soon, a lot of them won’t survive.”
Beasley notes that the cancelation of signature events in a community does more than harm the economies of businesses and entities that are directly involved in the events.
“The impact (of losing these events) is huge,” she said. “It’s not just, say, the losses of income associated with the homecoming football game at Albany State. It’s restaurants, hotels, gas stations, facility rentals, vendors, food trucks ... It’s also the loss of vital fundraisers like the downtown ChalkFest that’s the No. 1 fundraiser for the Albany Museum of Art ... the Native American Festival at Chehaw ... Habitat for Humanity’s Hammer Jam.”
According to information supplied by the CVB, these local events’ cancelations have led to significant losses in economic impact, losses of more than $6.5 million:
1. ASU Homecoming: (10/17-10-20) $3,501,493
2. Exchange Club Fair: (October-November) $798,506
3. GA First Robotics: (3/14-3/16) $482,850
4. SIAC Baseball Tournament: (5/2-5/5) $381,800
5. USaveIt Basketball Tournament: (12/20-12/22) $274,500
6. SIAC Volleyball Crossover Tournament: (9/27-9/29) $130,950
7. Habitat for Humanity Hammer Jam: (8/18-8/19) $60,000
8. Chehaw Challenge: (1/25-1/26) $12,560
9. Southern Discomfort Run: (7/28-7/29) $5,460
Other events like ChalkFest, the Native American Festival, the Flint RiverQuarium Wild Affair, the annual Jehovah’s Witness Convention and a large number of family reunions also were canceled due to the virus.
“Those numbers are actual economic impact losses,” Beasley said. “But there are other intangibles like tailgating at ASU football games, hotel and restaurant losses. And there are the nonprofits’ fundraisers that leave them with a big hit.Those things spread throughout the community.”
Beasley noted that the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference baseball and softball tournaments will be played in Albany in April, that a number of family reunions have been booked for spring and summer, and one of the largest events in the city, the annual Snickers Marathon, will be held this year.
“We’re hoping things will be a lot better with the virus by the time these events are scheduled,” she said. “Even if there are still restrictions, unless things take a turn for the worse, we will still move forward. We have to. We’re going to make safety a priority; we’re going to take every precaution. I just pray we can move forward.”
To which just about every business owner in Albany will add a hearty “Amen.”