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Winter Park leaders mull over helping finance new economic recovery task force

New study estimates nearly $500 million loss from COVID-19 in city

WINTER PARK, Fla. – During a Winter Park City Council meeting Wednesday, Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert proposed forming a new economic recovery task force as the pandemic drags on for the foreseeable future.

“This is a call to action,” Gardner Eckbert said. “What I thought was going to be a two week, two-month crisis, is probably going to be a two-year crisis for us.”

A study recently completed on behalf of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce shows an estimated $491 million in lost revenue from business including those specializing in finance, health and education, retail and restaurants, and construction. The same study shows an estimated 5,400 people unemployed due to the financial constraints of COVID-19.

During a Winter Park City Council meeting Wednesday, Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert proposed forming a new economic recovery task force as the pandemic drags on for the foreseeable future.
During a Winter Park City Council meeting Wednesday, Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Betsy Gardner Eckbert proposed forming a new economic recovery task force as the pandemic drags on for the foreseeable future. (WKMG)

Solutions proposed by the study, which was completed by the Balmoral Group, include a mask-wearing marketing campaign, open container outdoor areas, discount cards, and utility relief and property-related fee deferrals.

Gardner Eckbert suggested forming a new task force, involving property owners, business owners, and city leaders to help better unite the area in ways to better recovery going forward.

Even with reopening in the rearview mirror, some business owners say the hard part is just beginning.

Tracy Klingler owns frank., a boutique shop in Winter Park, and admits customers aren’t visiting as often as they did after the initial reopening.

“People’s priorities have changed,” she said. “When all of this first started, I think customers were more active because they were more interested in supporting local. I think people are still conscious of that, however as this drags on, we’re not seeing as much focus as we had in the beginning.”

Klingler set up an online store for her shop. However, after six months of the pandemic, she knows that won’t make up the difference.

“A large part of our business at least comes from tourists,” she said. “Until people feel comfortable traveling again, I think we’ll be impacted.”


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