Introducing the COVID-19 Recovery Task Force
Local leaders once again join forces to address what COVID-19 recovery looks like, county-wide. In light of the impact that a national pandemic has had on Jackson County, the group will determine steps to take as the county looks to move the local economy forward.
COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and our local leaders understand that. The ground breaking group first met in July, making an initial decision to initiate a joint marketing campaign built around the sentiment; Mask up Jackson Co., in partnership with Highlands Medical Center.
The apt decision was well timed, pairing well with Governor Ivey’s Mask up Mandate that started at 5PM on 7/16/20 and is currently set to expire 8/31/20.
“The Chamber sees daily the struggles our business and industry are experiencing as a result of this pandemic,” said Rick Roden, President and CEO at the Mountain Lakes Chamber of Commerce. “It appears COVID-19 will be around for a while, so we have to come up with ways to open up our economy safely. This Task Force can help with that!”
Tanner Harbin of Harbin Automotive was chosen to chair the task force. Harbin previously served on the Alabama Small Business Commission, which provided recommendations to public officials regarding COVID-related issues. “In these uncertain and tumultuous times, we hope to help guide the people and businesses in Jackson County to a clear path of recovery.”
Task Force Chairman, Tanner Harbin of Harbin Automotive
Other task force members include:
John Anderson, Highlands Medical Center
Shelia Shepard, Economic Development Authority
Robin Shelton, Mayor of Scottsboro
Rickey Steele, Mayor of Stevenson
Tim Guffey, Jackson County Commission
Jim Grigg, former Jackson Co. Coroner
Chuck Phillips, Jackson County Sheriff
Ron Latimer, Scottsboro Police Chief
Dr. Jay Reyes, Scottsboro School Superintendent
Kevin Dukes, Jackson Co. School Superintendent
David Barclay, 50 Taters
Steve Beaird, FNB Bank
Terry Couch, Johns Manville
Lara Pitts, Scottsboro Library
Jackie Graham, Lions Club
Dylan Smith, Chamber of Commerce Chairman
Rick Roden, Chamber of Commerce President
Paul Smith, Jackson Co. Emergency Management Authority
Katie Britt – Business Council of Alabama – President
Jackson County Masks Up!
When we reached out to our local members to ask why they masked up, we received an overwhelming response. In every scenario, folks made the decision to mask up not for themselves, but in the protection of those they love & serve.
Jason Hepler – Police Chief at
Tanner Harbin –
James Allen –
Rhonda Osborn –
Polly Robb –
Committee Member's Speak Up!
Committee Member & 50 Taters Owner David Barclay shares first-hand how COVID-19 has effected the local restaurant & tourism industry. Considered a top area attraction, his restaurant typically serves thousands of visitors a week, giving Mr. Barclay a bird’s eye view on how to best approach a concept that is widely foreign to the business community.
How has the pandemic effected 50 Taters?
50 Taters, just like other local restaurants who rely on dine-in customers, have been greatly effected! Buffet & catering businesses have been devastated & only time will tell how those business models will rebound. Fast food locations who were initially situated to accommodate drive thru service, delivery, & carry out have fared well & some have even increased revenue. By in large, all restaurants are not in the same boat but we all face the need to adapt to social distancing mandates.
Where 50 Taters has mostly been affected, concerns our staff. During the shutdown unemployment benefits were greater than a working wage in this industry, making it difficult to retain employees; even while operating at a 50% capacity.
In March, when Governor Ivey closed dine-in restaurants, we employed 33. In May, when we were allowed to reopen at 50% seating capacity, 21 employees returned. With less people looking to return to full-time employment, as of 7-29-20 we are still only able to operate with 21 employees. For that reason, we have had to adjust our business strategy, cutting business hours from 7 days to 5 & hours open from 55 hours to 36.
The current situation has resulted in a total revenue lost approaching $350K. Every week we operate at this capacity brings an estimated additional $12K in lost revenue. What does that mean to the local economy? The loss in tax revenue alone is detrimental, never mind the loss of traffic our community is used to; causing a trickle-down effect across the county.
How do you think the restaurant business has changed?
Only time will tell. Early signs are showing that less seating will be the change that 50 taters will be making. While future plans for seating at 50 Taters will see our dine in seating decrease from 159 to 130 when we are allowed to go back to 100%. Extra staff will also be required. Self-serve & buffet restaurants will have the biggest challenges, as we have already seen in our own community, Western Sizzlin has had to completely reinvent itself.
What do you anticipate the future to look like?
To adjust to the lack of revenue, we will see higher prices, longer waits for tables to be available, and less choices for dine in restaurants could be a worst-case scenario. Fast food & chain restaurants should rebound quickly. However, I believe the locally grown restaurants will become harder to find, and we have the potential to see quite a few empty buildings. The good news is, there will be opportunity! My question would be, will talented people take the risk in the near future to build a restaurant or will the big chains come in & swallow up all the opportunity? How can we better ensure that’s the case?
What advice do you have for the industry?
Be careful buying all the fear that so many are selling, Jackson county has done a great job with this virus & understand as of 8-5-20 there was only case in Jackson county at Highland’s Medical Center, and 3 deaths according to CDC in this county. As a business owner in this county, be proud, let people know we are doing all the right things to keep them safe and our record confirms that.
This video was made possible in partnership with Highlands Medical Center | and The COVID-19 Recover Task Froce.