More than two years after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, our world and region still face a multiplicity of challenges and unknowns. This is especially true for East Bay small businesses, many of which were racked by public health orders requiring them to temporarily cease to operate. While many businesses found ways to adapt and developed innovative approaches and solutions to retool the they provide goods and services, a significant number of them also ceased operations during this period. Last fall, we reported that nearly 12,000 business locations in the East Bay had either temporarily or permanently discontinued operating, a sign of the enduring impact of the pandemic on our region’s economy, particularly in cities and communities that had previously been bustling with activity.

Fast forwarding to today, many of our small businesses continue to struggle, though there are some hopeful signs of growth and opportunity are beginning to emerge. After a very difficult two year period, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is again celebrating National Small Business Week during the first week of May 2022, conducting a “Building a Better America Through Entrepreneurship” national bus tour encompassing nine (9) cities across the U.S., including San Francisco on May 2. The SBA is also hosting a free 3-day “virtual summit” that will include presentations and sessions helping small business owners with needs such as accessing capital, getting support with branding, communications and marketing, and expanding digital solutions that can help to unlock new markets and opportunities. While these activities and events represent just a small step forward in helping to support economic recovery, they are nonetheless a significant step toward signaling the urgency of helping to support our existing business community while also creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs to start new ventures.

Locally, a few East Bay cities are organizing and supporting their own 2022 small business week events, including the cities of Oakland and San Leandro, to name a few. While our diverse East Bay communities were impacted unequally by the pandemic, they have uniformly been passionate about the essential roles that small businesses play in supporting our region’s residents, workers, and overall quality of life. For these and other reasons – just as we implored to all of you during the 2021 holidays – East Bay EDA continues to encourage everyone to spend some time frequenting and supporting your local small businesses not just during the upcoming week, but throughout the year.

Not sure what to do or where to go? For the past few years, East Bay EDA has hosted an online Business Resource Map containing helpful information about more than 400 assets and resources to support our region, more than 100 of which provide both direct and indirect support to small businesses. We hope that this can provide a helpful start for people seeking out additional resources and support, and as always, we welcome additional submittals for any organizations and/or other resources that can help ensure that the East Bay’s small business community remains strong.