In the 11th episode of the #LoudounPossible Pod, podcast host and Loudoun Economic Development Executive Director Buddy Rizer unpacked the origins of the rebooted Take Loudoun Home campaign, with special guests Visit Loudoun President and CEO Beth Erickson, and Loudoun Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tony Howard.
The campaign was born out of a desire to help businesses that are struggling to stay afloat during the COVID-19 outbreak.
At a time when social distancing and a stay at home order have made consumers more cautious, and widespread commercial interruption has caused more than one-in-seven Americans to lose their jobs, shopping local should be a priority.
“Take Loudoun Home has an amazing technology backbone behind it. It turns out that every single business that we had on our website, on that big long list, is represented on that website,” Howard explained. “It took a lot of work. We were proud to do it, but to have something that is so plug-and-play, so user-friendly, and so inclusive of the entire community…it was not hard for us to say ‘yes,’ right away.”
Tourism and hospitality businesses have been overwhelmingly impacted by the virus, which has shut down international travel and severely hampered domestic and even regional travel. Visit Loudoun and Loudoun’s vibrant tourism economy have been dealt a major blow.
“Nothing makes tourism more poignantly visible than when it all disappears. I think that has been a really profound part of all of this, and having these businesses evaporate overnight,” Erickson said. “In a period of days. Going from social distancing to closing, to job loss, to businesses that aren’t reopening their doors. This is where the vitality of the community being based in that tourism/hospitality sector, has become really apparent that it’s not there.
“I think that just as we were the first wave, the canary in the coal mine, when all of this happened, where you saw all of our losses really start rolling first, I think that we will likewise be the first signs of recovery. When you start to see people going out to restaurants, to our breweries and our wineries. It’s been a little bit of a better mantra for me that Loudoun’s recovery starts with tourism.”
Later in the podcast, Rizer spoke with Chris Blosser, Loudoun’s rural business development manager, and point man on the new e-commerce platform for farms to sell directly to consumers online. Built to resemble the traditional experience of shopping at a farmers market but from the comfort and safety of your home, the Marketplace is a real game-changer for those farms that take advantage of the new platform.
“This is really a project that we’ve had in mind for some time now, and there’s no better time to launch it than right now,” Blosser explained. “By talking to some of our rural businesses that have lost some of their sales avenues, whether that be direct to restaurants and retail shops, those have dried up significantly.
“We’re looking to help them redirect some of those products to a new market.”