Meet Hamilton’s ‘Rapid Response Team’: 8 ways it helped business during coronavirus struggled

A “Rapid Restart Team” of Hamilton city employees and others created in early April has worked to help businesses keep selling their products during the coronavirus pandemic, City Manager Joshua Smith told an audience at the State of the City speech last week.

The group was created with the understanding “that we were going to have challenges with our small businesses, with the residents,” he said.

Here are some of the ideas the group of 10 people came up with:

  • Hamilton’s $300,000 gift card program that helped dozens of small businesses, by essentially providing them short-term loans that are being repaid as people buy gift cards to the businesses, and those are redeemed by the goods and services the businesses provide to the gift-card holders.
  • The first-ever Hamilton Restaurant Week happened in May, something that will continue in future years.
  • Outdoor seating and painting of some alleys to make physically distanced outdoor dining more available near small businesses in the downtown and Main Street business areas. "At a time when a lot of restaurants across the United States were closed — many of them closed permanently — our restaurants quickly adapted to carry-out, take-out, DoorDash, Uber Eats and eating outdoors.
  • Creation of 10-minute-maximum curbside pickup parking areas that allow people to park and pick up take-out food from restaurants. “We’re going to keep this, going into the future,” Smith said. “It was so popular, our restaurants liked it so much.”
  • “Hamizon,” a mashup of the words Hamilton and the online-shopping megastore Amazon, was the mid-May creation of an online publication advertising various items that could be bought online from various Hamilton businesses.
  • “Takeout Tuesdays,” a plea for people to buy food from local businesses at least one day of the week.
  • An upcoming program called “Holly Jolly Hamilton, Not-So-Silent Nights." “You’re going to hear more about that in the upcoming weeks and months,” Smith said.
  • Journey Borealis, a light show that will begin Nov. 20 at the Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park. “If you’re a Hamilton resident, you will have free access on Tuesday nights to Pyramid Hill, the holiday light show, once they open, through the end of the holiday season.”

“If anyone has an idea for this group,” Smith said, “Please send them an email. They are looking to be as creative as possible, and as a consumer or a small-business owner, you may have ideas that they simply have not thought of yet. I would encourage you to reach out to them.”

An email address to use is

Another big help to businesses was Thommy Long, owner of LemonGrenade Creative, who received the Greater Hamilton Chamber of Commerce’s Small-Business Person of the Year award during the Hamilton State of the City event. Smith praised him for the help his company gave to 37 other businesses, tweaking their brands, creating ads and helping them improve their online outreach to customers at a time many Ohio businesses were closed because they were non-essential.

“It’s very impressive that a business that I’m sure is uncertain, like all the other businesses at the time of the pandemic, to give free services to so many small businesses in Hamilton,” Smith said.

Smith also praised city employee Adam Helms, who runs the RiversEdge amphitheater concert series, “for one of the few concert venues that are still going strong.” The outdoor series placed boards where audience members can sit to be physically separated from each other.

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