What will Greenville and Hunt County be like in the years ahead, once the COVID-19 pandemic has finally disappeared?
The Herald-Banner posed that question to a panel of local business and government officials, who met at the newspaper Thursday for a Facebook Live presentation on the topic of “Onward” Navigating the post-coronavirus world in Greenville.”
Herald-Banner Editor Louis Amestoy moderated the discussion among the speakers, which included Hunt Regional Medical Center President and CEO Richard Carter, Greenville Mayor David Dreiling, Greenville City Manager Summer Spurlock, Greenville Independent School District Superintendent Demetrus Liggins and Kevin Sawatsky with RE/MAX 3D Real Estate.
Each member of the panel admitted how the past year had been extraordinarily difficult, but were also positive and upbeat in talking about how the lessons learned during the period will allow them to continue to improve.
Carter said Hunt Regional Healthcare already had an emergency operations plan in place prior to the pandemic.
“We never, ever thought we would have our Emergency Operations Plan in operation for an entire year,” Carter said, admitting the how nonetheless it helped the agency adapt. “We have had to rely on our own abilities to solve problems and to create solutions that are creative.”
Spurlock said that while many people in the city were in a position to have to stay home, especially during the first few weeks of the pandemic, “Our services became more in demand.”
She said the city had to learn to provide increased water, sewer and more to meet the rising need.
“None of that slowed down for us,” Spurlock said, while crediting her staff with being able to pivot to address the problems, often from their own homes. “A lot of times we weren’t set up to do that, infrastructure-wise, with laptops.”
Liggins said the Greenville ISD realized early on that virtual teaching had its disadvantages.
“To have that relational presence absent, really effected a lot of students’ learning,” Liggins said, adding it taught officials with the district what would be needed to assist the children in the future.
“For younger students it has really been a challenge and we’re seeing a lot of gaps where’re going to need to fill,” he said.
Sawatsky explained real estate professionals had a unique challenge. While many people preferred to stay in their own homes during the start of the pandemic, for a variety of reasons they still needed look for new places to live.
“We did a lot of virtual showings,” he said, a method which also proved helpful for people wanting to relocate across the country. “People who are in Chicago and are wanting to move to Dallas, or to Greenville, who do you show them your house?”
Dreiling said the same method made it possible for Greenville and the surrounding area to recruit new businesses.
“A lot of industries have wanted to come to Greenville,” Dreiling said, explaining how the pandemic limited many city’s ability to reach out to new companies. “It has effected Greenville the other way. Our Board of Development has done a tremendous job in doing virtual showings of buildings and sites.
The complete discussion, which lasts about an hour, is available at the Herald-Banner’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/HeraldBanner/videos/146582447408861