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A common, phased approach to handling a community disaster starts with response then progresses to recovery before focusing on rebuilding. Most would agree that the COVID-19 public health crisis differs significantly from natural disasters such as a hurricane, earthquake or fire. Therefore, the Downtown Bozeman Partnership is tackling COVID-19 by developing strategies for response, recovery and resiliency.

Like many businesses, the Downtown Partnership responded quickly last week and fundamentally changed how we work individually and as an organization. Immediately closing our office to the public and transitioning to working remotely let us focus on critical communications with downtown stakeholders. Within hours we began compiling and disseminating best practice protocols to our constituents to protect public health and bolster business vitality. Within days we pivoted to identifying resources that may help businesses and employees find financial stability in the face of the uncertain depth and breadth of the pandemic’s impacts.

Discerning what will be needed to recover from the economic impacts of this crisis is difficult as we navigate this unprecedented and ever-changing landscape. Nonetheless, the Downtown Partnership is already working with local, state and national economic development and downtown management professionals to identify potential recovery tools and strategies. Relying on long-standing relationships with a wide range of partners ranging from the city of Bozeman to the International Downtown Association, we are collectively looking for and developing solutions. Daily coordination is taking place between business improvement and urban renewal districts across the state and country to discuss options for charitable giving, financial grants, and gap funding loans.

When appropriate, the Downtown Partnership will convene community partners to discuss what we can do to better prepare for future crises. We would be remised, after all the work going into responding to COVID-19 and following the tremendous resources that will be invested in recovering from the corresponding economic fallout, to ignore planning for future resiliency. But right now, we must focus on the moment. We are going to have to make difficult decisions, but we need to do so with vision, creativity, and boldness. We must work together, like never before, as a community, as neighbors.

Downtown is an incredibly strong neighborhood and we will persevere. Businesses and employees are the family that make the downtown neighborhood an amazing place to live, work, and socialize. Like any strong family, downtown will take care of each other by calling our neighbors and offering help to those in the greatest need. The Downtown Partnership will continue working tirelessly to provide businesses with important response and recovery information, keeping downtown clean and safe, and educating the community about ways to safely support and enjoy downtown during these difficult times.

Here are some ways to safely support your favorite downtown businesses:

• Shop online locally: Many downtown shops have online stores and offer curb-side pick-up, delivery or shipping (usually free of charge).

• Make local purchases by phone: If your favorite business doesn’t have a commerce website, then call them, say hello, and order what need.

• Buy local gift cards: Support downtown stores and restaurants by purchasing gift cards online or over the phone to use in the future.

• Order take-out or delivery: Some downtown eateries are still providing wide choices of meals to go.

• Share the love on social media: Consider posting stories about how you are supporting your favorite downtown businesses and encourage other to do so.

Please consider these ideas about how you can still enjoy downtown safely with social distancing:

• Walk or ride your bike downtown: There are so many amazing aspects of our central business district that do not involve spending money.

• Take photos of your favorite buildings: Downtown is filled with extraordinary architecture both historic and contemporary.

• Self-guide yourself on a public art tour: Gallatin Art Crossing curates over 60 sculptures downtown located on a detailed on-line map.

• See Bozeman Creek: Explore all the places and ways that Bozeman Creek passes through downtown between Bogert and Creekside parks.

Chris Naumann is the executive director of the Downtown Bozeman Partnership. For COVID-19 updates specific to downtown businesses visit: https://downtownbozeman.org/covid-19

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