Wyo Businesses Keep Busy in Economic Slowdown

LARAMIE – Many businesses are struggling to find enough work to keep busy amid the pandemic.  Let’s face it, for the retail, travel, hospitality, and oil/gas industries business is slow.

Now is the time for Wyoming businesses to take advantage of the Paycheck Protection program offered by the US federal government. 

According to Brian Kuehl, Director, Government and Public Affairs, KCow Isorn LLP, “Every Wyoming small business affected by the coronavirus economy should consider applying for funds to cover their payroll.  if you aren’t sure you are going to be affected, then think about borrowing the money and at least put in your application.  If it turns out you don’t need it instead of asking for loan forgiveness, you can just pay it back so it can be used for others.”

The paycheck program application is simple, only two pages, and is intended to cover small business payrolls for 8 weeks.  A copy of the application can be obtained at the US Federal Treasury’s website at https://home.treasury.gov/system/files/136/Paycheck-Protection-Program-Application-3-30-2020-v3.pdf

ESal CEO, Teresa Nealon admits that her business has been affected negatively by the extremely low oil prices and COVID-19, but is planning to take advantage of the economic slowdown by increasing training and transferring duties to a new employee.  “Last year we opened a new office and part of that office’s purpose is to take over some administrative functions, so ESal is focusing on that smooth transition, in a virtual manner of course,” Nealon said.

ESal, a participant in the 2018 Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses, is also using this time to review their cybersecurity policies and procedures and work on the maintenance schedule they had set up back in 2018

 “We added a few workstations and some networking equipment with the new office,” said Nealon, “so we are updating our inventory, making sure that equipment is set up to our policy standards, and doing some housekeeping.”

Dana Miller-Eiland the Boss of Sign Boss in Gillette is taking a little bit different tactic to keeping her employees engaged.  Even though it takes more time to keep in touch with distributed employees at home, she is working with each employee to train on relevant topics to increase their skills.   She has also been encouraging them to find webinars and learn more about the machines they typically work on.

Sign Boss is doing everything they can to keep their people paid and employed including lowering wages for everyone for the time being, applying for the paycheck protection program, and planning to ride this out long term.  The Sign Boss has 10 employees including the owners.

“We want to keep everybody employed at Sign Boss,” said Miller-Eiland, “We are still in business and we are still working, but we are scheduling shifts so that we can employ social distancing practices.  Luckily signs are still in demand.”

Another suggestion to keep your employees busy is to research and implement some of that infrastructure you have been talking about, said Pat Wolfinbarger, CyberWyoming co-founder.  Many small businesses have been interested in password management software, cloud backups, multi-factor authentication, and other risk management tools that could benefit their business. 

“Because so many people are working remotely, many vendors have waived the 30 day trial of their products and are offering their products for free for an extended timeframe,” said Wolfinbarger.  On https://openforbusiness.org/ there is a list of these product offers, specifically for small businesses.

Wolfinbarger also suggested that it is a good time to write your cybersecurity risk management policies and went on to say that CyberWyoming and the Cyber Readiness Institute have free templates available so you don’t have to start from scratch.

The hospitality and retail industries have been hit hard in today’s coronavirus economy.  Emi Domoto-Reilly owner of the Nested West gift shop and Rivera Lodge Bed and Breakfast in Pinedale is taking the time to implement her online retail store.  The Nested West a unique gift shop in the area and Domoto-Reilly has always meant to have an online presence. 

“When you have thousands of items in your store, it is tedious to put them up 30 at a time on your website, but I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” said Domoto-Reilly.  “It will help my business in the long run,” she continued.

Domoto-Reilly is also working on mail order Easter and Mother’s Day packages.  “Being a small business might be tough right now but we can be nimble and creative,” said Domoto-Reilly.  “I’m hopeful that we [as a society] are currently learning and that this will be an opportunity for positive permanent change.  It is helpful for us to remember that there are humans behind the machines and maybe after the coronavirus the hatred we see online will diminish,” she continued.

Finally, it isn’t too late to join the 2020 Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Businesses.  Any Wyoming business or organization can participate virtually and it is free, funded by CyberWyoming’s members and sponsors.  The Competition is designed to create a cyber leader in every office to manage business risks.  It walks a novice through taking an inventory, free tools available to help with decision making, policy writing, and managing your cyber team.

While the topic of cybersecurity may feel overwhelming at first, Charles Van Huele Board Volunteer for the Laramie Historic Train Depot and second place winner in 2019 still encourages businesses to go through the process.

“Once I got to talking with [CyberWyoming] that first visit, I was kind of buried.  And I’m not going to lie.  I was frightened because I was like, what have I gotten us into?  And now it makes so much sense.  And it was so much easier than I was worried about…it was really not something I should have been that terrified of,” said Van Huele, “It made me ask other questions that I didn’t even think of.  I didn’t have to build a program.  I just had to work with programs that were in place.”

For more information about the Wyoming Cybersecurity Competition for Small Business and other resources to enhance business and personal cyber hygiene, visit www.cyberwyoming.org. For questions, email laurab@cyberwyoming.org.


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