TYLER, Texas — Prior to COVID-19, this year started off strong for businesses across East Texas.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Tyler had an 11.3% unemployment rate in May.
Tom Mullins, President and CEO of the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce, says while the number was a significant increase from months past, some industries are still hiring.
Brookshire’s, for example, added more employees due to the changes in consumer buying habits as a result of spending more time at home.
Businesses with lower margins such as restaurants, have faced a more serious challenge. The decline in foot traffic and changes to the number of people allowed inside has made it difficult to make a profit. Meanwhile, some industries like real estate are thriving, returning to pre-coronavirus levels.
Other East Texas cities have seen growth through the pandemic as well. In Lindale, the development leading up to the coronavirus pandemic helped move the city forward. Shelbie Glover, President and CEO of the Lindale Area Chamber of Commerce, credits that growth to a solid foundation in the months leading up to COVID-19. She pointed out that a new bank, gas station and restaurants have all been opened or in the process of opening, since the pandemic began.
As East Texas settles into this new normal, a key focus is educating the community and restarting the economy safely. In a smaller city like Lindale, the challenge was getting residents familiar with curbside services and picking up food instead of dining inside a restaurant. The Lindale Area Chamber of Commerce is encouraging everyone to wear face masks, and they are creating backup plans for many of their events.
For the rest of the year, both the Tyler and Lindale Chamber of Commerce are moving forward with business as usual, making changes on the fly and making multiple backup plans.
Despite the challenges brought on by COVID-19, there is optimism about the rest of the year. New companies are bringing hundreds of jobs to Tyler, and there are new projects taking place in the medical industry.
The ultimate key to weathering a significant event like COVID-19 is a diverse economy; making sure there are strong business pillars in multiple industries, so when one declines, the region does not suffer.