In the ninth episode of the #LoudounPossible Pod, Middleburg Mayor Bridge Littleton joined podcast host and Loudoun Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer to discuss the unique business support being offered to Middleburg’s business community.
Middleburg is a small town of fewer than 1,000 residents, which typically enjoys major business thanks to a vibrant retail, hospitality and restaurant scene. With the outbreak of COVID-19, visitors and area residents who would normally patronize downtown shops and restaurants have all but disappeared. Salamander Resort, which is the town’s largest business, has been forced to close temporarily.
Recognizing that the town was hampered in its ability to give cash grants and recognizing that loans were not feasible for businesses operating on thin margins, Mayor Littleton and the town government got creative in helping businesses.
The plan has been years in the making.
“Going back several years now, one of the things that we wanted to take a serious focus on, especially knowing how reliant we were on the retail and hospitality market, we wanted to ensure that our town had a resiliency structure put in place,” Mayor Littleton explained. “So when the next calamity hit, or the next economic downturn or recession, we would be able to have not only uninterrupted services for our citizens and businesses, but also be able to inject back into our local economy to support the businesses and the residents.
“We have focused a lot in the last couple of years on building up significant financial reserves. We actually have a reserve policy, where we are required to have, in a reserve, 150% of our annual operating expenses. We actually have reserves far in excess of that right now, because we want to make sure that business isn’t interrupted and we can actually do things to help lessen the impact.”
Middleburg is lessening the impact of COVID-19 on its businesses through a number of innovative programs.
“We funded a Retail Support Program. Local government cannot just give money to a for-profit business. We’re not allowed to give grants, but we are allowed to enter into contracts for services,” Mayor Littleton said. “It is focused on giving businesses economic incentives to drive discounts for their customers, to increase sales, whether it’s an essential business that can allow customers to come in, via online or drop-off.
“Any discount a Middleburg business wants to give to any of its customers, we will refund them 50% back, in cash. If somebody has a $1,000 order and that business gives 30% off, the customer is going to get the savings of $300, and we will give back to that business $150 of the $300 they gave off to their customers.
“The customer benefits by getting a great deal. The business benefits by getting some revenue, and the impact of that discount is lessened to them and lessened to their bottom line.”