FINANCIAL FIRST RESPONDERS
Heroes are among us. They’ve appeared in both predictable and surprising places over the past two years. From the medical professionals who nursed patients back to health to the public officials who walked the fine line of hard truths, from the classroom teachers forced to muster their own courage to help the state’s children keep going to the front-line workers who kept us all fed and clothed and flush with life’s necessities.
And then there were the bankers. Little attention has been paid to the financial first responders and not nearly enough praise given to these dedicated men and women who collectively kept the country’s small business community afloat. They worked grueling hours, they explained complicated rules, they pivoted, they fought, and they cried right along with their clients—men and women just like you. They deserve a collective thank you far beyond this small sampling of stories straight from the battlefield.
Even the Darkest Clouds Have a Silver Lining
On one of Evan Osborn’s first days on the job as the outdoor market manager at Capitol Market in Charleston, a global pandemic reared its head. The market is a nonprofit governed by a board charged with operating the unique facility. It’s home to more than 20 indoor and outdoor vendors that sell fresh produce, gourmet foods, and other West Virginia–made products. Fear and shutdowns put the essential business in a tough spot—having to weigh the needs of its indoor tenants while managing the crowd size in the bustling outdoor market. People seemed comfortable shopping for essentials outdoors, Obsorn says, and the outdoor portion of the market realized record numbers in those early days. But inside, vendors were hurting.
“We eventually had to close the indoor market, and we knew that our traffic overall would end up decreasing significantly,” he says. “The market is a business, but it’s also home to nine other small businesses inside and more than a dozen growers outside at any given time. We not only had to worry about our business, but all the others, too.” The closures and decreased foot traffic came about the same time as the government unveiled the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and the Capitol Market board began weighing its options. Osborn says the board hoped to provide rent relief to tenants and help out in any other way it could. They turned to their financial team at BB&T (now Truist) and, with a little help from the nonprofit’s accountants, were able to submit an application quickly.
“It wasn’t just Capitol Market getting the PPP loan,” Osborn says. “It was the nine small businesses in our indoor market that were in the same boat as we were. We were able to take some pressure off of each one of them, too. It brought us all together, in a way. We were all subject to the same set of circumstances, and we worked together to find a way out of it.”