BizWorthy: Bank Of America, Other Businesses Gear Up For Possible Coronavirus Outbreak
One of Charlotte’s largest employers, Bank of America, has announced several measures aimed at preventing the spread of the new coronavirus. In a companywide email this week, the bank said its increasing what it called “deep cleanings” at its offices, limiting international travel, and directing employees who could have been exposed to the virus to work from home.
This comes as Gov. Roy Cooper on Tuesday confirmed the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in North Carolina. Tony Mecia of the Charlotte Ledger Business Newsletter joins WFAE "Morning Edition" host Marshall Terry with more on this and other news for our segment BizWorthy.
Marshall Terry: Tony, how does this square with what other businesses are doing to try and prevent the spread of coronavirus?
Tony Mecia: Well, there's obviously a lot of interest among everybody, not just businesses, but people about, you know, what is coronavirus, what does it mean? How does it spread? So you're seeing a lot of businesses start to be forward looking and say to themselves, "OK, if this is coming this way, what do we need to do to get ready for it?" And so Bank of America, like a lot of other companies, are doing doing some things like they're putting out more hand sanitizers, they're doing more cleaning, having some people work from home. So, you know, they're starting to think about these things, Marshall, and so that's really what a lot of these businesses are doing. And they're really just starting to ask the question, What does this mean for us and how do we need to prepare?
Terry: And is that what local businesses here in Charlotte are doing besides just Bank of America — even say, you know, smaller businesses?
Mecia: Yes. It's really businesses of all sizes, I think, you know, are wise to start looking at this. And a lot of them are. I talked with somebody with The Employers Association, which provides human resources services to small businesses. And he said they've been getting calls all week: "What kind of travel policies do I need to put in? How do I deal with work from home? Can I tell people to work from home?" So businesses are trying to anticipate what's going to happen here. And really the best advice was to just first of all, not to freak out about this and not to panic about it, but to follow the news. Understand how it spreads. Make sure you have a clean environment, a clean work environment, that you're not encouraging people to shake hands, that if someone's been to an area that's affected, that, you know, maybe kind of keep them away from other people and really, you know, to do these things that are sort of common sense, but that you would do if, say, there was a normal flu outbreak in your work or everybody had colds — making sure that if, for example, if somebody is sick that they don't try to be a hero and show up and say, "The company needs me, I need to show up at work." But that person maybe stays home if they're able to in their job position.
Terry: Did you get a sense of what the level of concern is in the Charlotte business community? Are people freaking out?
Mecia: I don't think they're freaking out. I think they're asking themselves, "What does this mean for my business?" And they're trying to anticipate eventualities, figure out what it means and what they can do really to make sure their businesses keep operating, but also to do it in a way that doesn't encourage the spread of this virus.
Terry: Let's move on to sports now. You recently got an idea of how much tickets to see Charlotte's new Major League Soccer team will cost. So are they going to break the bank?
Mecia: Well, it's going to be cheaper than the Panthers. I don't know. Maybe that's not saying a lot. But, you know, the team sent out an email last week to the fans that have put in deposits for Major League Soccer, and they were really just sort of testing the waters. They said, "OK, here's some possible seating arrangements. Here's how much they might cost." The lowest tier that they floated was around $26 a game. Now they're not selling the upper deck — they're just selling the the lower level and the club seats. So, you know, it is, I think, cheaper. There were some fans who were a little bit concerned I think that, you know, they also, in some cases want to charge seat licenses like they do for Panthers games. That had some fans, I think, a little bit concerned. But the team is in this sort of period where it's sort of testing things out a little bit with its fans, and that was that was the level that they had had floated.
Terry: Tony, in the most recent newsletter, you wrote about hiring a social media influencer for the Ledger and that you found it's not as simple as one might think. Just really quickly, for those who may not know, what is a social media influencer?
Mecia: Sure. An influencer is basically somebody with a big social media following who then works with businesses, takes either money or offers of free food and then, you know, promotes those businesses. So it's a form of advertising that's growing. It's really interesting, Marshall. You know, if you scroll through your social media feed, you know, Facebook, Instagram, you see all these posts and people are advertising businesses. You know businesses want to reach you. But it's sort of murky. How did the how do you get from wanting to advertise to have having somebody show up on your on your Instagram feed? So I went, I had a little bit of money and I tried to get some publicity, hired an influencer. It was a little more complicated than you would think. It's not just a matter of reaching out to people, paying the money and they post. They want to make sure that your business aligns with what they're doing. You want to make sure that what you're doing aligns with what they're posting. Sometimes it can be hard to get them to move at a moment's notice. Talked to some experts that said basically, if you're hiring an influencer to do it right — you want to plan a couple of months ahead, have a strategy, be able to measure the results. Unfortunately, Marshall, those were all things I didn't do, so I don't think I really saw very good results for the Charlotte Ledger.
Terry: Finally, you found that North Carolina owns an abandoned circus train. So what's it planning to do with that?
Mecia: Well, yeah, the Carolina Journal reported last week the state of North Carolina does own an abandoned circus train in Nash County, which is near Rocky Mount. It bought nine rail cars for almost $400,000 in 2017 and is still figuring out what to do with those. Little bit curious.
Terry: What is a circus train? What's on that?
Mecia: Well, you know, we don't really get many circuses coming through town anymore. But, you know, I guess you've got to have somewhere to put the lions and the elephants and get them into town, Marshall.