Texoma businesses are thinking outside the box as they adapt to the world of social distancing keeping customers away.

One tool that is helping businesses is the Small Business Association recently making disaster loans available for Texas businesses hurt by the ongoing health crisis sweeping the nation.

Denison Development Alliance Vice President of Business Development William Myers said businesses are making the best of the situation.

"We haven't heard of any major layoffs," Myers said. "We're still too early in this to tell. We're trying to make sure over this week there's been quite a bit more information like the SBA small business loans during this period of time. They have improved loan access from the state and federal government."

Myers said the DDA is working hard to get all the information out to the businesses to strengthen their chances to survive.

Small Business Development Center Grayson College Director Karen Stidham said the first step for any business facing economic hardship during the crisis is to head to the SBA website by visiting www.sba.gov to see what loans the business owner might wish to seek.

"The SBA is constantly updating information that is helpful to small businesses," Stidham said. "A small business can be up to 500 employees depending on the industry they are in. It includes what some people don't think of as small. We are going to be working remotely. We will have access to email and our website and phone. Email ill be the most reliable."

Stidham said some businesses are already closed and will remain closed. in other cases they are getting ready to be close in the event that happens.

When it comes to bring ideas to the SBDC she said the best advice is to think outside the box. She said entrepreneurs tend to be creative risk-takers with big ideas. She said not to be afraid to bring an idea that finds a new way to serve existing customers.

"There is no one size fits all," Stidham said. "Our advisors work with our individual clients to determine what is the best course of action. If they call our office they will have someone to work with one on one."

Because Texas was recently declared a state of disaster it became possible for Texas businesses to obtain those funds through low interest loans.

She said the best way to get approved is to develop a plan that shows the business is coming up with ideas that will work during the crisis.

One example she brought up was Denison distillery Ironroot Republic shifting to making alcohol to be used in hand sanitizer. She said businesses that can pivot to meet the needs of the market shortages right now is one way they can help out. She said another example would be a company that makes clothing shifting to make hospital gowns to help out in that area.

There are a couple of stipulations when it comes to getting the loans. First she said they are not available to religions organizations or churches. Typically non-profit organizations cannot get the loans unless they specifically serve other businesses and even then it is handled on a case-by-case basis.

The other restriction is the loans cannot be used to pay off existing SBA loans. Now she said having an existing SBA loan does not disqualify a business from being eligible and shouldn't deter them from applying.

Myers said every business is adapting in every way possible. Car dealerships are offering to pick up cars that need repairs and bring them to the shop for customers. Most restaurants are offering delivery. Even a number of retailers are offering curbside pickup and delivery where they can.

In Denison, a number of parking spaces have been designated as for curbside pickup for the businesses that are going that route.

"It is a matter of guiding people. We had some people ask us specifically about loan programs," Myers said. "There aren't any grants out there right now. Most of what the government is offering right now are low interest loans to bridge the liquidity gap.

Myers said most businesses haven't had a chance to even determine what their individual needs will be as things change daily. He said the key is to stay persistent in the process. He said DDA is waiting to see how the federal and state programs work out. He said they did have a call from a business looking to pivot to helping out with one shortage product. The business was able to do the work without DDA funds.

"It has been nice seeing the different businesses collaborating and trying things that are unconventional," Myers said. "You had HeyDay, whenever they closed down they donated their food to non-profits. It is a challenging time. If anybody has any kind of question they can call us, the chamber or the city. If we don't know the answer we will do everything we can to help them figure it out."

Sherman Economic Development Corp. President Kent Sharp said people are determined to get through the crisis to get things back to normal.

"This is not just affecting our smaller manufacturing it is affecting the big guys," Sharp said. "I think it is still early in the game. Some businesses have said it is tough with orders getting canceled or delayed. We don't know what the next 2 weeks look like. It is hard to get a beat on what the business community thinks. The biggest concern among all of our manufacturers are worried about their employees. How do we keep our employees gainfully employed."

Sharp said businesses are taking every step they can to keep employees. He said the concern is over finding ways to pay employees while also adjusting business to fit into the way things operate lately.

As of Friday Sharp said some shipments in different sectors have seen some delays. He said nobody has talked about laying off workers yet. The focus is trying to find a path to avoid that step. He said there are no guarantees a lot of businesses are waiting to see how the federal government responds.

"The next 60 days are going to be crucial, not just Grayson County but the whole country," Sharp said. "The whole national economy is affected by this. If this thing takes out a lot of businesses we already know we're taking on a trillion new debt. Where does it go next? Does the economy rebound strong enough to absorb the impact of this? The next three to six months are going to be the biggest challenge. How we work together, government and private sectors, is going to determine how to get through it."

Sharp said Grayson County is not dependent on a single industry and thus it can absorb some of the impact of an economic downturn.

"I am not panicked right now," Sharp said. "Not because of anything I know. I just know the level of leadership we have in Grayson County. I know our workforce. We've got some very intelligent folks here. I am confident in their ability to get Grayson County through this to the next side."