Letter to the Editor:

One-hundred twenty-seven years ago Vilas County was founded by William Vilas, a lieutenant colonel, law professor and Secretary of the Interior under President Grover Cleveland.

Like our founders who lived through horrific world wars and disease, we too now face one of the most devastating times our county has ever encountered. The coronavirus pandemic is raising havoc throughout the county, especially with small business. 

Remembering Mr. Vilas’ pioneering spirit, determination and visionary leadership, together with many other founders, we can help guide our ability to navigate this crisis today. 

Founded in 2008, the Vilas County Economic Development Corp.  (VCEDC), a nonprofit 501(c)(3), has had as its goal to “connect resources to the various sector partners of Vilas County to improve the economic future of the county and the quality of life for all residents.” 

In addition to our overall mission to attract new business, entrepreneurs and remote workers, during this pandemic we seek to serve our county by doing just that — helping provide business owners with the information and resources they need, and advocating for small business in discussions with county and state officials. 

The goal is to sustain the small businesses — the restaurants, lodges, bars, gift shops and nonprofits — that have been so vital to our region. 

Over the past several weeks, I have spoken with many small-business owners and take to great heart the enormous financial and emotional challenges they face and that we face as a community. Many simply don’t know where to turn for help or what help is available. None of it can come too fast. 

During these unprecedented times, we understand that information and communication is critical. At the VCEDC, we strive to provide the most up-to-date resources available. Here are just a few examples:

Business resource page — Some people are receiving vital communications, some are not. Therefore, in addition to the regular e-news communications, we have developed a one-stop-shop COVID-19 business resource page on our website that contains the latest information, at vilascountyedc.org/covid-19-business-resources.

Small-business webinars — We want to ensure that your voices are heard and your questions answered. The COVID-19 Northwoods Small-Business Webinar held March 31 provided a first step to answer critical questions from North Woods small-business owners. 

We recognize that many of the government assistance loans have not been helping North Woods small business, and we’ve been advocating for that change. The VCEDC will be presenting additional topical webinars, including marketing your business during a crisis. 

Expert support — Leaders on the VCEDC board of directors, together with our partners in the region including the Small Business Administration and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., continue to be readily available to talk with small-business owners and help navigate options. 

As always, business owners are encouraged to contact us with any questions. If we do not know an answer, we will reach out to one of our colleagues in the community. We too extend our gratitude to everyone on the front lines who continue to ensure the safety and health of our families and neighbors.

President Abraham Lincoln once stated: “I am a firm believer in the people.” We are too, now and for another 127 years and beyond. 

Kathy Schmitz

Executive director, VCEDC 

Eagle River