As the coronavirus pandemic wreaks havoc on the economy, the South East Chicago Commission (SECC) has listed online resources to benefit local businesses and is planning virtual business consultations.

The tools are listed on their website at www.secc-chicago.org/covid19-support.

The SECC, 1511 E. 53rd St., an economic development nonprofit serving Hyde Park and several surrounding neighborhoods, has closed its office since the state enacted a shelter-in-place order, though its employees have since been working remotely.

"What we have done, what we're doing and what we'll continue to do is be committed to enhance our communication to the business community as well as a variety of neighborhood networks during this crisis," said Executive Director Diane Burnham. "Our goal is to increase business services and service offerings by using live video, social media, our weekly e-blast and launching our virtual business consultations."

SECC has lists of local restaurants offering takeout or delivery and resources for area residents and business-owners from the Chicago Community COVID-19 Response Fund and the Chicago Small Business Resiliency Fund to private relief funds. The nonprofit is highlighting critical open businesses in its communications as well as ways to donate to local causes.

SECC is also coordinating with the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection to support the local economy; Burnham also suggested resources from the Illinois Department of Economic Security for both people who are out of work and employers who are facing layoffs.

The virtual business consultations are in-development and will launch soon, Burnham said. Businesses can get advice on website set-up, shifting their products to online sales and help with marketing and customer attraction, especially during the pandemic. SECC is also looking at ways to market the local special service area, Downtown Hyde Park, for which the nonprofit is the service provider.

Burnham said that since the crisis began around 25 businesses have reached out to the SECC for a variety of needs, from sharing information on social media to connections with government resources.

"There are some businesses that are a little bit behind the curve on technology, so we anticipate we'll have to start having more phone calls and emails from businesses (asking), 'Hey, what are some things we can do?'" she said. Businesses are going to have to think about long-term planning through this crisis "for the next year and how to recoup some lost revenue, how to stay relevant in a changing market."

SECC has been around for 68 years and has done economic development business services since 1999. "We're not going anywhere," Burnham said. "We are secure in our funding and in our supporters, and we will make sure that the resources that we have in place and the programming still gets implemented."

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