In it together: businesses team up for local support

by Bonner County Economic Development Team
| April 5, 2020 1:00 AM

It’s easy to be discouraged by the economic news resulting from the COVID-19 crisis — for good reason. But that’s only part of the story.

Throughout the county, businesses are rallying to contribute positively during a time of crisis. Whether it’s hiring jobless residents, working to make vital resources available or reaching out to people in need, the Bonner County business community is making the most of a difficult situation.

Local companies stopping the spread and saving lives

Because COVID-19 attacks the lungs, Percussionaire, a medical device company, has found its respirators in high demand. Founded by legendary aviator Forrest M. Bird, a pioneering respirator inventor, Percussionaire’s ventilators are now in such demand that the company is reaching out to other companies with furloughed employees in the hopes of expanding its production capacity.

On March 31, the Hagadone News Network reported that the company, working in partnership with designer Brent Regan, had a new compact ventilator design approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It’s a recent victory in a whirlwind month, which saw Percussionaire ramp up production in anticipation of the expected impact from COVID-19.

Kochava, a tech company specializing in data analytics software, was able to lend its expertise to the cause, too. Working with Reuters, the company used its data to track how social distancing slowed the spread of the COVID-19 virus. The result was an enlightening look at how social distancing works and why it’s our best defense in slowing the pandemic spread.

Public Wi-Fi for community connection

With a large percentage of the workforce trying to be as productive as possible from home offices, stable high-speed internet is more important than ever. To assist people who might find themselves out of options or struggling with inconsistent internet access, Ting has partnered with the city of Sandpoint and Matchwood Brewing to offer a free drive-up wi-fi hotspot.

Located at the public parking lot at 501 Oak St., this free wi-fi hotspot is a solution for people who need to pay their bills, do work, check the latest news and information or simply enjoy a little entertainment. It’s also a temporary solution for would-be Ting customers while the internet provider has a crisis-triggered moratorium on home installations.

Finding work for those displaced

For workers displaced by Coronavirus-related business shutdowns, this is a time of uncertainty. Some are unsure that their previous job will be waiting for them once the crisis passes. Workers wishing to get back to work as soon as possible are finding relief from the businesses that are stable or even expanding.

As has been reported in the news media, many grocery stores and retail stores with “essential” status are hiring additional workers to keep up with the increased demand. Other Sandpoint businesses, like Litehouse, are finding other ways to contribute in a time of crisis.

When the magnitude of the crisis became evident, Litehouse leadership discussed how to weather it with employee safety in mind. Whether it be at their production facilities or their company headquarters, the company has implemented extended sick leave and work safety measures to keep employees healthy. They are also reaching out to workers made jobless by the pandemic and invite them to take a look at open positions on their website.

As an employee-owned company, Litehouse leaders said their entire team has a stake in keeping business moving, and everyone is doing their part to go above and beyond. Manufacturing facilities now include free lunches sourced from local restaurants, and the company is working to provide the food bank with needed supplies.

Businesses putting the community first

Litehouse isn’t the only business getting food to the people who need it. Although restricted to drive-through or curbside takeout, many restaurants are finding ways to share their talents with people in need. This past Friday, for instance, the Eureka Institute partnered with Community Curry to provide 160 curry meals free of charge — complete with delivery if transportation was a problem. In the coming days, this program is set to expand and include a number of additional local restaurants.

Likewise, the Pack River Store offers free sack lunches to needy families available for pickup at multiple locations, depending on the day. The Pack River Store sack lunch program is another team effort, thanks to support and food donations from Schweitzer Mountain Resort, Sandpoint Football, Arnie’s Conoco, Travel America Conoco, The Burger Dock and many others.

If you would like to support the Pack River Store sack lunches, they have a PayPal set up under the email packrivercatering@gmail.com. The business also encourages everyone to donate food or money to the Bonner Community Food Bank. Give them a call at 208-263-3663.