The coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis has caused many businesses to reduce operations or temporarily close, but in the Stateline Area has a wealth of food producers who are still cooking through the crisis.
Food producers are one of the businesses deemed essential in the coronaviris crisis and employees continue to show up for work each day.
A reliable sector for business growth in the Beloit area has been food processing and food technology businesses like Frito Lay, Hormel Foods, Kettle, Kerry and others said City of Beloit Economic Development Director Andrew Janke.
“Having those food tech and processing businesses in the Beloit area helped us weather past economic storms,” Janke said. “Hopefully those needs will continue to be there.”
Janke said that amidst the disruption caused by COVID-19, some area companies are hiring additional workers to accommodate a spike in demand.
“It’s unfortunate that people are losing their jobs, but it does open up other opportunities in other industries,” Janke said. “There’s potential for a short-term shift in the workforce.”
PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito Lay, announced on March 25 plans to hire 6,000 additional full-time frontline employees in the coming months due to the need for food production demand caused by COVID-19.
Benefits now available to Frito Lay employees due to COVID-19 include extended paid leave in the event of quarantine or caring for an ill family member; free COVID-19 testing; backup childcare and access to mental health resources, according to the company’s careers website.
“At this unprecedented time, which is having a profound impact on all of us, we are so grateful to our frontline employees for all they are doing to ensure our products are available for families across the country,” said Kirk Tanner, chief executive officer of PepsiCo Beverages North America. “We know our products on store shelves provide a sense of stability and normalcy to consumers during trying times. This is our way to recognize the critical role our frontline plays in our organization, now and always.”
In South Beloit, Mayor Ted Rehl said he’s confident businesses in the city are adapting to the “new normal” in the age of COVID-19.
“I think we are benefiting from Axium and Tree House being here,” Rehl said. “You see those companies thriving right now and they are benefiting from the type of work that they do.”
Axium is a producer of corn curls and snack chips while Tree House makes cookies.
The sectors projected to be impacted most by COVID-19 is the tourism and hospitality industries. The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that hotel occupancy could drop to 25% and see anywhere from 2.8 to 3.4 million jobs lost in the hospitality industry and related fields.
“People are going to be out of work and those jobs that companies couldn’t fill before could help people find reliable employment,” Rehl said. I think that’s really true. What normal was going in for our companies was the workforce shortage. The new normal could be an opportunity.”
A grassroots effort to support local businesses was started earlier this month to support local businesses impacted by COVID-19, along with state and federal programs coming online to help harmed businesses.
Rehl said service-based businesses including bars and restaurants were “maintaining a subsistence-level” of operations during stay-at-home orders closed dine-in customers for Wisconsin and Illinois with carryout and delivery options.
“We’re seeing a lot of adaptation right now,” Rehl said. “I think you’re going to see a push for regionalism to bring people and companies together.”
Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board CEO Rhonda Suda said in the Rock County area, businesses including Diamond Assets, Dollar General, Frito Lay and and Lavalle Industries have contacted the job center in Janesville about new job listings related to COVID-19. In demand jobs across the state can be found at wisconsinjobcenter.org/lookforjobs/in-demand.html.
Beloit’s Gateway Business Park has created more than 1,000 new jobs and $140 million in additional tax base value since its founding in 2000.