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Local business leaders discuss the effects of COVID-19

For better or worse, COVID-19 has affected everyone and every business. While some businesses have struggled, others have flourished.

Representatives from several local companies, such as Augusta Staffing and SRP Federal Credit Union, attended a business expo at the Columbia County Exhibition Center on Thursday, Sept. 9. (Photo taken by Josh Heath)

For Robert Kelly (see photo above story) – vice president of Augusta Staffing – the pandemic has made filling open positions a much greater challenge. “A large number of employees are still scared to come to work,” says Kelly. “It’s affected us greatly.” He explains some companies that hire through Augusta Staffing don’t require masks or social distancing, which makes some employees feel so uncomfortable, they quit their jobs. As a result, “We have more job orders than we have people,” to fill those jobs, Kelly states. Representatives from about 15 local companies, including Augusta Staffing, attended a business expo on Thursday, Sept. 9 at the Columbia County Exhibition Center in Grovetown. The expo was part of the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce’s annual State of the Community Address.

Mike Meyers – director of business development for Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service – says the pandemic has caused his company to experience delays in service. (Photo taken by Josh Heath)

Like Kelly, Mike Meyers – director of business development for Gold Cross Emergency Medical Service – says the pandemic has profoundly affected his business. “With a rise in (COVID) numbers, we’re seeing the delays in service,” Meyers explains. But he states Gold Cross is just one of many companies nationwide dealing with the effects of the coronavirus. For example, many companies, particularly restaurants, have faced widespread staffing challenges.

Matthew Halter – marketing specialist for SRP Federal Credit Union – says COVID has had very little effect on his job. (Photo taken by Josh Heath)

For Matthew Halter – marketing specialist for SRP Federal Credit Union – COVID hasn’t really affected his job. “75% of the time, I’m in the office,” though he sometimes attends community events, like the expo, says Halter. “We have other employees who work at home.” He explains SRP has gone back and forth in terms of requiring employees to wear masks at work.

Christie DeFoor – director of marketing for DeFoor Realty – says due to the current real estate market, business is the same or better than it was before the pandemic. (Photo taken by Josh Heath)

That’s also been the case for Christie DeFoor – director of marketing for DeFoor Realty in Appling. “Honestly, it hasn’t slowed anything down,” Defoor says. She explains that due to the current real estate market, business has been the same or even better than it was before the pandemic, and the company never closed due to COVID. Defoor states the only way they have been impacted is some clients want their agents to wear masks while showing a home to prospective buyers.

Julie Williams – co-owner of Augusta Gift Baskets – states COVID has actually helped her business. (Photo courtesy of Josh Heath)

Julie Williams explains the pandemic has actually helped her business. Williams – co-owner of Augusta Gift Baskets – says she and her husband and business partner, Randall, have avoided many of the challenges other businesses have experienced in the last year and a half. “We’re based out of our home,” she states. “We’ve been very fortunate to continue working without much interruption.” Williams adds one thing that has helped Augusta Gift Baskets thrive is it’s a relatively hands-free business. Customers can “order online, and we deliver,” she says. One challenge the couple has faced has been getting some of the supplies they need to assemble their baskets.

Matthew Roberson – sign production manager for Allegra Marketing Print Mail and Image360 – says while print orders have decreased, sign orders have increased. (Photo taken by Josh Heath)

Matthew Roberson – sign production manager for Allegra Marketing Print Mail and Image360 in Martinez – says his company has experienced both ups and downs throughout the pandemic. Roberson says COVID has had a negative effect on print orders, but for signs, it has been a different story. “With signs, business has ramped up the last six to eight months,” he states.

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