When Will Things Be Better?

Small businesses have struggled during the pandemic, but pivoting or rearranging a business model doesn't mean automatic success. What lessons have you learned? What makes you hopeful for 2021? Let me know -- and we can share your story!

-- Brenda Rees, Biz Buzz Editor

Contact me at brenda@TheEastsiderLA.com

Architects plan ahead during pandemic

Architects from Tracy Stone

Tracy A Stone employees celebrate the completion of a small lot subdivision in 2020; site visits during COVID sometimes can be complicated by construction staff not wearing masks, says Stone.

The pandemic has ravaged many businesses. But many local architects have been able to weather the storm despite the challenges of getting projects approved and dealing with the personal and family burdens created by the pandemic.

Being classified as "essential businesses" allowed architects to continue working even during the most severe stage of the lock down. New residential construction and home remodeling projects kept solo and small architectural practitioners busy in 2020.

“I consider myself very lucky,” says Highland Park architect Jonathan Brier. Not one of his projects was canceled last year, he said.

Outdated Technology

Many architects lament the current state of Los Angeles’ Department of Building and Safety. The department's outdated technology to review plans and issue permits has not been able to keep up with new demands that arose during the pandemic. What was once a simple visit Downtown and a short wait in line to get approvals or file paperwork now can take up to three weeks to a month, said architects.  

For Elysian Valley architect Tracy A. Stone, working remotely with the City has additional challenges. Their city plan checker could not work for a month because of catching and recovering from CoVID. “We have been working with this person for almost a year and we needed one last minute change that we had to wait on,” she says about how she’s learned to factor in extra time for these permitting steps.

The City is aware of the frustration, said Building & Safety Public Information Officer eff Napier. “Since we are abiding by LA County Health orders, not having person-to-person interaction is going to slow the clearance process down," he said. "We are currently working on an online plan submittal process … but that will take time.”

Challenges for women architects

One of the biggest challenges has fallen upon women architects. Not only must they tend to business but have had to devote more time childcare as schools closed during the outbreak.

“We have five mothers on staff,” says Stephanie Ragle owner of Office 42 Architecture in Cypress Park. One mom, however, cannot work at all since she is caring for two young boys.

“It’s complicated for us moms and because our firm prioritizes family and we allow for flexible scheduling,” says Ragle. “The responsibilities for us to care for our kids have only increased during this time.”

Outlook

Carlo Caccavale, director of the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects, predicts that business will pick up once Los Angeles moves into a post-pandemic era.

“There is going to be a huge interest to maybe refresh commercial venues,"  Caccavale said. "New restaurant designs going forward will probably include more attention to outdoor spaces and landscaping.”


Have you employed an architect during the pandemic?

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The lowdown on the latest PPP

The second round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) re-opened this week for new borrowers and certain existing PPP borrowers. Small business owners should review the terms and conditions of the new program; but the main takeaway is that if your business did not previously receive a PPP loan, or if your business experienced a 25 percent reduction in revenue in one quarter of 2020 over 2019, it’s time to apply.

As in the first iteration, businesses, sole proprietors and independent contracts applying for loans of $150,00 or less and based on the same calculation as round one – 2.5 times one month of 2019 payroll – do not have to submit new documentation if applying through the same lender. Lenders, however, can request addition documentation if they want.

Click here for a deeper overview on this next round of PPP loans.


More financial optimism for 2021?

Despite suffering financial setbacks in 2020 (job loss, emergency expenses, etc.), many Americans think that 2021 will leave them in a better financial situations, according to Fidelity Investments’ 2021 New Year Financial Resolutions Study

Of the top three financial resolutions respondents listed for 2021: Save More Money (44%), Pay Down Debt (43%) and Spend Less Money (30%), one in six respondents, say that recovering from pandemic financial losses is another top resolution.

Overall, younger generations appear to be more committed to improving their finances -- 78% of Gen Z and Millennials compared to 59% of Gen X and Baby Boomers.


Grants for minority-owned businesses

Wells Fargo has announced a $2.6 million small business recovery grant to help minority-owned businesses in SoCal weather the COVID-19 pandemic. The grant is part of the bank’s Open for Business Fund program which launched as a $400 million small business recovery effort across the U.S. to help entrepreneurs recover and rebuild.

The fund provides low-rate, micro-disaster loans of up to $50,000 to eligible and impacted small businesses

Click here for more information and to apply.


Welcome 2021!

2020 was a roller coaster of a year for small businesses that are now looking forward to new opportunities and assistance in 2021. Biz Buzz wants to hear one thing that your small business wants this new year. Drop me a line and let me know how business is going -- or not going -- for you! 

-- Brenda Rees


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