PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Many small businesses are staying connected and finding much-needed support through a Portland-based online platform.
Business for a Better Portland is using the platform—called Switchboard—which gives businesses the opportunity to share their ideas, offer services, access resources from law firms and online workshops and ask for help.
Switchboard is open to all businesses during the coronavirus crisis. More than 350 businesses are currently using it.
“We planned to launch it as a member benefit this spring but in the wake of this crisis we decided to open it to all businesses,” said Ashley Henry, the executive director of Business for a Better Portland.
Henry said a marketing consultant is on hand to offer free 45-minute consultations for businesses using Switchboard to help them brainstorm marketing strategies during the pandemic.
“There are restaurant owners who are inquiring about ways they can maybe take advantage of a locally-based technology for deliveries so that more of the payment goes to the local business and to the delivery person rather than some of the larger companies that have apps that maybe don’t pay as much to the local restaurant,” Henry said.
Business for a Better Portland is also advocating for changes at the state and national levels after many small businesses weren’t able to access financial help through the Paycheck Protection Program.
“We are lifting up the stories of small business owners to our federal delegation so they can try to improve the PPP situation,” Henry said.
Regional transportation company Titan Freight Systems is using Switchboard to offer its services to others in need. The business recently received a loan through the Payroll Protection Program and said all of its drivers are working and ready to help.
“I have a lot of idle capacity and since we received that benefit we went right to Switchboard,” said Titan Freight Systems President Keith Wilson, who is also running for Portland City Council. “We are getting calls and now we are providing services—free transportation for nonprofits and people in crisis—so we can do our part.”
Titan Freight is also making deliveries for the Oregon Food Bank and for the “Here Together” homeless services campaign.
“Switchboard is that opportunity—you can put what your needs are out and get it out to a large community quickly which is a critical part in a crisis—being able to address it quickly,” Wilson said. “We are not alone and there is an incredible amount of support. It’s just knowing where that support it.”
Henry also echoed the sentiment, adding the Portland region is home to businesses with a heart for community.
“There is a wealth of generosity and creativity int he business community which is why we started Business for a Better Portland in the first place,” she said. “We knew there were a lot of businesses in Portland that genuinely care about not only the wellbeing of their own company but the wellbeing of the community as a whole.”
Switchboard isn’t just for small businesses. Henry said the Switchboard company is a mutual aid platform for other organizations like Oregon colleges, community groups and the criminal justice system.