Albert Lea finds new tools to help small businesses during pandemic |

Albert Lea finds new tools to help small businesses during pandemic

Ross Becker
Updated: March 22, 2021 11:20 PM
Created: March 22, 2021 09:27 PM

(ABC 6 News)-- Every city and town is having its’ challenges during this pandemic and the shutdowns. Small businesses are hurting and some are dying. 

Albert Lea is an example of a city that tried to find a way to help keep those businesses and the city alive and try to make it through one of the toughest times in history. It all began with Phillip Johnson, the Executive Director at Albert Lea Economic Development Agency.

WATCH PART TWO: Albert Lea businesses persevere through pandemic

WATCH PART THREE: Albert Lea businesses persevere through pandemic

Johnson began conducting business surveys to find out what local businesses needed to fight back against the virus, the shutdowns, and the slowing of business. 

The latest survey he conducted found that nearly 60% of Albert Lea businesses claimed they needed between $5,000 and $20,000 in the first quarter of this year to survive. Johnson used that information to lobby for more grant money from the state and the federal government.  

So far, the agency has given out just under $2 million in grant money.  Johnson says, “I think it’s overwhelming to see how many people who are just trying to survive. I think it’s extraordinarily difficult.”   

“They don’t want to leave, no one wants to leave, nobody wants to close their doors, nobody wants to wear a mask, but we have got to do what we gotta do," says Sherry Jensen, President of Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce.

Jensen says her agency is focusing on the emotional scars of the pandemic and helping with mental health counseling.

Albert Lea City council member Rich Murray says he’s proud of how his city has been helping, but he says the businesses should never have been in this position. 

Murray says the two statewide shutdowns were wrong and blames Governor Tim Walz for not listening.  He says the rules should have been customized for each community.

“I don’t think it was all necessary. I always struggle with the fact that we can have thousands of people go into the local Wal-Mart every day, but you can’t have 3 people in the local shoe store or dress shop," he said.  

The ABC 6 Special Report - 'Saving Albert Lea' continues Tuesday and Wednesday as we speak with several businesses and non-profit organizations about how they fought to stay alive through the pandemic.

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