The first goals for Gearhart’s Small Business Education Committee are a website and resources for the city’s business owners and entrepreneurs.
The committee, established by the City Council and launched by Mayor Matt Brown, aims to provide resources for existing businesses and attract new businesses that meet the needs of the community and fit the character of Gearhart and its zoning.
“It’s something I wanted to get going for a couple of years now,” Brown said at Tuesday’s first meeting of the committee. “In March, especially with the pandemic, being a business owner myself, and things getting in lockdown, it was a crazy time. I was in an absolute panic. Luckily, I was able to reach out to other business owners in the area and to the Small Business Development Center. We were all kind of in the same boat.”
A golf course owner and PGA golf professional, Brown said the coronavirus pandemic and its financial consequences brought about a need to provide resources to local businesses.
“What I didn’t realize was that there are so many resources available to us for free, and so many grants, loans and financing that’s available for small businesses,” Brown said.
After the start of the pandemic, businesses got into the habit of sharing resources, he said. “We asked, ‘How can I help other businesses get through this and succeed in the long run?’”
Jessica Newhall, lead business advisor of the Clatsop County Small Business Development Center, said she saw opportunities for the city to communicate with its business community not only downtown, but on the main highway.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t look around our community and think of 10 businesses we should all start. I’m here to be a resource in any way I can.”
Committee members include Newhall, Jenny Frank, former small business owner and agent at Windermere Gearhart, and Brent Warren, who brings a career in banking and business finance services. Frank was named committee chairperson.
The meeting comes as Gearhart’s Planning Commission wrestles with proposed zoning changes in the city’s C-1 zone. The conversation began early last year when the commission sought to manage downtown and highway commercial development.
The changes create broader definitions for businesses and allow for more uses, Brown said.
A Planning Commission public hearing takes place Wednesday at 6 p.m. to discuss those modifications.
The committee will likely expand in the coming months, Brown said, and may add a planning commissioner.