CHEROKEE COUNTY, Ks. — This week is Economic Development Week across the country.

A much different outlook on things than this time a year ago – when the pandemic had just started to affect, well, really everything. A year later, many businesses are in a much more celebratory mood, thanks, in part, to a number of grant programs. That includes Cherokee County.

Janet Miller, Cherokee County Economic Development Corporation Director, said, “Usually in economic development we see a particular industry suffering or that kind of thing rather than businesses across the board are having issues at the same time.”

It’s hard to avoid this when you’re in the middle of a pandemic.

Samantha Atkinson, New Beginnings Full Service Salon Owner, said, “We were shut down for about seven weeks, unable to work, so a loss of revenue was huge for us. Even during a shut down you still have a mortgage, you still have utilities due and everything and so without an income it makes it harder to make those payments.”

Whether it was to stay afloat, adjust or recover, some businesses needed a little help. This came in the form of grant programs like Spark and the CDBG.

“Businesses needed money fast and so these grant programs were terrific in terms of being able to help assist them get through the tough times,” said Miller.

Not only did this help keep many in business, but it also created a new market.

“This was probably the first time in recent memory that there were wide spread business grant programs, I think people always think ‘I’ll start a business, I’ll get a grant.’ Seeing a lot of businesses start now in the last five to six months.”

A year later many business are returning to normal, in some cases even better than before.

“I feel like we’ve gained respect and because of that I’m busier, I didn’t think it was possible, I feel like I’m busier than I was before,” said Atkinson.

“The game was to help those businesses make it through the pandemic and I think we’ve been very successful in that and we hope that we’re looking towards a brighter 2021 and beyond,” said Miller.