Written By: Eddie Wei, Business Engagement Collaborative, Ames High School
When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit just over a year ago, local businesses across the country scrambled to keep their doors open. Uncertain about what was to come, business owners had to develop new strategies, face new challenges, and overcome all the odds.
While we can all agree that this pandemic has brought more harm than good, many of us do not realize how impactful the lessons we learn from this economic crisis will have in the future.
Recently, we interviewed several Story County business owners to better understand the challenges, successes, and failures placed by the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so, we hope to highlight what economic development is like in Story County in a time like this.
Fenceline Beer Lab—a nanobrewery and restaurant in Huxley—had to face the challenges of the pandemic only two months after their grand opening. Co-Owner and Head Brewer Susan Frantz says that Fenceline Beer Lab “had to do many pivots.” As a small business that relied on face-to-face interactions and communal relationships, Fenceline had to completely change their original plans to garner sales during the pandemic. In only two weeks after the initial shutdown, Fenceline transitioned to to-go sales and started canning their beers. Their quick thinking and adaptability allowed them to continue business, even if it was in an unconventional way. However, while they were able to push through the initial shutdown, Fenceline had to close and re-open several times throughout 2020 to accommodate to COVID-19 restrictions. Only in October of that year were they able to open long term.
Burke Corporation, a manufacturer of fully-cooked meats headquartered in Nevada, provides insight on how COVID-19 has impacted larger organizations. As an industry, Burke had to deal with changes to the supply chain and the delivery of raw materials. These unique challenges required them to quickly adapt and find creative solutions. For example, Burke shifted some of their focus onto different selling points that were still effective during the pandemic. In particular, they expanded their business in the retail space. They also stayed successful in their main selling point: pre-cooked meats for restaurants and other eateries. By helping out struggling customers like sit-down restaurants, Burke Corporation was able to increase their own business.
On an internal level, Burke combatted quickly-changing COVID-19 protocols and guidelines by streamlining messages in a transparent way to their team members. One way they did this was by using new technology. Rather than just emailing and phone calling, Burke embraced new video conferencing services to communicate internally and externally. In fact, the incredible advancements in video conferencing also allowed Burke to reach international customers in an intimate and personal way that wasn’t possible before.
While COVID-19 has placed unprecedented barriers to businesses large and small, economic development in Story County has not slowed down. Fenceline Beer Lab and Burke Corporation have shown us how to adapt to changing circumstances and succeed in a time like this.
304 Main St.
Ames, Iowa 50010
Phone: (515) 232-2310
About the Ames Chamber
Centrally and conveniently located in the heart of the Midwest and Iowa, Ames is known for its healthy, stable economy, flourishing cultural environment, and the world-renowned Iowa State University.
With over 650 members, the Ames Chamber of Commerce strives to make Ames a better place to live, work, and do business by strengthening the economic vitality and the quality of life in the Ames community.