Spirit of Small Business Awards - Honoring Tracy Beard

Aug 20, 2020

By Chris Officer
Staff Writer

Tracy Beard, Chamber Essential for Solvang Businesses
Tracy Beard
Solvang Chamber Executive Director

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, there's not much Tracy Beard hasn't done for the Solvang business community.

Since businesses first started shutting doors in March, Beard and the Solvang Chamber have worked with more than 180 businesses affected by the health crisis and helping them secure Paycheck Protection Program loans. Working with Montecito Bank & Trust, $135 million has been se­cured for 141 businesses across the Santa Ynez Valley, including $5.9 million for 62 businesses in Solvang alone. Beard said the chamber's next goal is to help women­owned businesses in Guadalupe secure PPP loans and unemployment assistance.

The main reason the Solvang Chamber is in position to assist so many businesses out­side the Solvang region is thanks to its eco­nomic development contract with the Eco­nomic Development Collaborative. Initially, the two-year, $250,000 economic develop­ment contract was used for marketing the city. But Beard said Solvang has been able to switch gears and rely on some of the contract to further its tri-county reach to help small businesses during the pandemic.

Beard said the chamber has been busy around the clock, helping small business owners with everything from uploading tax forms, to filing fictitious business names, working with Spanish-speaking clients and getting them in the PPP Joan que, helping businesses get money to pay back micro­loans, teaming up with SCORE and the EDC to provide small business resources and di­saster preparedness guides, as well as hold­ing several business classes online daily.

"We never closed our doors once," Beard said. "We figured the chamber was essential."

Solvang, which roughly gets around 1.5 million visitors per year, pivoted from attracting tourism and switched its fo­cus to encouraging community residents to spend money in town. With already a commercial in the works, the cham­ber is also erecting six-foot signs saying "Loving Solvang" to help generate local spending, and Beard said the city is con­tinuing to push the opening of businesses the right way.

Businesses like Peasants Feast, which had a grand opening date of March 5. Despite the remarkably bad timing, Beard and the cham­ber worked with the restaurant to continue its initial opening. Peasants Feast still held its grand opening, as well as a mixer announc­ing the restaurant was officially open for take-out orders, all via Zoom.

"Our local businesses pivoted so amaz­ingly," Beard said. "We never had to leave the valley to buy anything."

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