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The series will evolve beyond the pandemic to serve as a space for community dialogue and information sharing.

The Downtown Long Beach Alliance (DLBA) has long served as an educational and informational resource for the Downtown small business community. Programs such as the Small Business Winter Workshop and the monthly One Million Cups meet up for entrepreneurs have given Downtown stakeholders the opportunity to directly engage with their colleagues and to interact with experts about every facet of small business.

Suddenly, COVID-19 changed the playing field: How could DLBA stay connected with the small business community at a time when those businesses need it most? The organization addressed this question by creating “Downtown Discussions: DLBA Webinar Series,” which provided roundtable discussions and resource updates pertinent to the needs of Downtown businesses and stakeholders.

Morris Mills, DLBA Research and Public Policy Analyst, conducts a webinar via Zoom.

“With the implementation of the Safer at Home order, we were forced to pivot in order to continue providing the small business community with relevant content,” said Morris Mills, Research and Public Policy Analyst for DLBA. “We were dealing with such a rapid paradigm shift. We quickly created this online outlet so our Economic Development Department could continue its programs at a safe distance.”

The webinar series was originally designed to address informational needs related to the COVID-19 crisis; this iteration of the series ends on June 12. “In the near future, expect to see new webinars on a variety of topics of interest to Long Beach residents and businesses,” Mills said.

The COVID-19 webinar sessions took place on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Tuesday mornings at 11 a.m., guests were able to participate in question-and-answer sessions about pertinent topics such as loans, grants, and updates on public health regulations. The Tuesday sessions also served to disseminate relevant information from the City of Long Beach, the Small Business Development Center, and workforce development agency Pacific Gateway.

During Tuesday webinars, businesses were able to connect with City of Long Beach officials directly. “It’s great to provide that consistent space for people to check in and ask questions of a real person,” said Mills.

Friday morning webinars were presentation-based, providing what Mills referred to as “thought leadership.” During these sessions, Mills and DLBA Economic Development & Policy Manager Austin Metoyer moderated a panel of experts who provide insights into the many aspects of small business recovery and progress. “We’re trying to make these Webinars as unique an experience as possible in terms of the quality of information,” said Mills.

The June 12 webinar – the last in the current COVID-19 series for the month of June – will feature a presentation by economist Dr. Robert Kleinhenz and California State University Long Beach lecturer Dr. Scott Flexo, who will synthesize the complex issues discussed in the previous sessions and explain how they play into the economic forecast for Long Beach.

“When we first planned this webinar series, we were responding to a need generated by the public health crisis,” Mills said. “We now hope to leverage this resource to address many other topical matters of importance to our community, and to use it as a space not only to distribute information, but also to facilitate dialogue.”

To learn more about Downtown Discussions: DLBA Webinar Series, visit www.downtownlongbeach.org/invest/entrepreneurship-and-investor-resources/covidwebinarseries/.