The Denison Development Alliance is looking to assist businesses in going virtual in a time of social distancing.


The economic developer is considering new incentives that would support area businesses in their efforts to develop online e-commerce platforms.


“We want to promote Denison and promote businesses and we saw from this this COVID(-19) action that the businesses that were the most resilient had an online presence and contactless payment functionality,” DDA Vice President William Myers said.


For the incentive, the DDA is considering taking a portion of its marketing budget for the year and instead utilizing it as an incentive program. This incentive would provide prospective businesses with a matching grant for starting online sales and other online platforms for business.


Myers noted that this platform can vary from business to business, including plug-ins on websites, mobile apps or implementation with other online services like GrubHub.


“We want part of these funds to be spent on consultants to find out what is best for a company because what works best for restaurants, doesn’t work the best for boutiques,” he said.


The idea of supporting online sales has been considered by the DDA recently, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic hastened the development, Myers said.


“We don’t know how long this is going to go on. So, we can help more businesses to hopefully more get more resources in place,” he said. “Once we get on the backside of this crisis, they will be stronger businesses.


“While hopefully this won’t happen again, if it does, we will have the resources in place to assist.”


Early plans for the program call for the business to put in at least 25 percent of the cost, with the DDA matching it with the remaining 75 percent.


For businesses that are just starting e-commerce, Myers said 75 percent of the funds could be used for implementation, with the remaining 25 percent used for advertising under this model.


For businesses with an established online presence, these numbers would be reversed and 75 percent could be used for advertising.


For the initial roll out, Myers said the DDA would likely start with about six or seven initial projects before adding more if the program proves successful.


Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com.