Economic development commission launches tool that lists open businesses, services

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 29, 2020

By Natalie Anderson

SALISBURY — Some businesses have closed indefinitely due to COVID-19 and others are riding it out with a different way of operating. To help the public navigate the current “normal,” a new online tool has been launched to help locals stay up-to-date on which businesses are operating and what services are being offered.

The Rowan Economic Development Commission launched has launched the tool, called Rowan County ZoomBusiness. It allows local businesses across the region to communicate with customers for free in real time. Using the tool, customers can search for businesses by categories, including grocery stores, restaurants, pharmacies, banks, health facilities, pet stores, automotive stores and hardware stores.

Businesses can list themselves for free on the Rowan County ZoomBusiness site to help residents find the businesses and services they need. The businesses can provide customized details including websites, modified hours, delivery or curbside pickup options, promotions and gift card stimulus programs.

“During this crisis, local businesses need every advantage we can give them, and this is another tool in helping them to mitigate the negative impact of COVID-19,” said Rowan EDC President and CEO Rod Crider.

The online tool is powered by Google Maps and derives information from GIS Planning, a global tech company that uses online mapping analysis to provide real estate, demographic, labor force and industry information to help regions create, retain and grow businesses.

Google Maps allows the tool to include “layers,” such as the COVID-19 case map updated daily by The New York Times and a job-loss vulnerability index using recent employment data from Chmura Economics and Analytics.

Local ZoomBusiness sites have already been deployed in over 30 communities across North America since the new online GIS mapping tool launched April 22, according to the Rowan EDC. The Rowan County ZoomBusiness tool was the second to launch in North Carolina.

“Main street businesses are truly the lifeblood of a community,” said Alissa Sklar, vice president of marketing for GIS Planning, in a news release. “According to FEMA, up to 40% of small businesses never reopen after a major disaster. With ZoomBusiness, we want to help make sure the local restaurants, retailers and service providers that define local communities are still there to serve area residents when this pandemic is over.”

And following the COVID-19 recovery, data experts at GIS Planning intend to continue the use of the directory to promote small and medium-sized businesses across North America.

“It was a free tool for us,” Crider said, adding that it allowed the EDC to make it available to the local business community for free, as well.

Locals can find the online tool at

Additional information about businesses hiring, CARES Act funding and other resources for businesses — compiled in conjunction with Rowan EDC, Rowan Chamber of Commerce and Rowan Tourism Development Authority — can be found under the “COVID-19 Resource Guide for Rowan County” tab at

Contact reporter Natalie Anderson at 704-797-4246.

About Natalie Anderson

Natalie Anderson covers the city of Salisbury, politics and more for the Salisbury Post. She joined the staff in January 2020 after graduating from Louisiana State University, where she was editor of The Reveille newspaper. Email her at or call her at 704-797-4246.

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