EEDC: The last time we spoke was around April of this year. There have been many changes. How are things going?
Scott Beatty (SB): Certainly, in our markets, things are going pretty well. All things considered, we haven’t been impacted like some of the major metropolitan areas. Even in the cases of a lot of our local restaurants, they figured out a way to accommodate people and keep the doors open. So, I think those are all good signs. People are out and about more and become more accustomed to dealing with the virus, wearing masks, and doing the right things. It will be interesting to see when it gets cold, and people can’t eat outside, whether they’re willing to go inside or not.
Generally, though, the local economy is doing reasonably well; certainly, the real estate market is very hot in Talbot County right now.
EEDC: From a lender’s standpoint, talk more about how local businesses are doing?
SB: Everybody’s revenues have been hurt, but some companies have done quite well: construction companies, pool companies, and landscapers. We have not, to this point, had one default as a result of the pandemic. That bodes very well. We normally monitor our past dues monthly, and this is the lowest they’ve ever been. I think what we are seeing is that people are spending money. From a banker’s standpoint, we’re seeing reasonably good loan demand and savings out of our customers. Everybody is trying to working through issues and keep the doors open.
EEDC: So, there is room for optimism?
SB: Just having been through this pandemic for much longer than anybody anticipated, the condition of our local economy, I am optimistic that if we’ve survived this long, it bodes well for the future.
Part of the reason for my optimism is what’s happening locally with the real estate market. The number of people moving here either full or almost full time to escape the violence and the virus will undoubtedly put money into our local economy. We’re seeing businesses considering moving their headquarters or their operations to a place like Talbot County to get away from the metropolitan areas. We have much to offer here. We’re close to Baltimore, Washington, and not too far from New York or Philadelphia. We have a good infrastructure here, low taxes, and a wonderful environment. These things are attracting people to relocate here permanently. I’ve spoken to several people that said, ‘look, we have an office in DC, and if I have to go in two days a week, I’ll do that, but I’m going to live here.’
EEDC: Is the industry worried about a second wave and how will that impact things?
SB: You always have to be worried about a second wave. But many things have changed. One is that we know who’s at risk. People, by and large, are social distancing and wearing masks. The treatment options now are better known. So, yes, the second wave is worrisome, but I think that the country and we locally are in a much better position to deal with it than we were initially.
EEDC: The last time we spoke, you were requesting help from Washington. How did that go/is going?
SB: Certainly, some more stimulus would be helpful. There are several bills in both Houses right now that deal with PPP forgiveness on all loans under $150,000. You won’t even have to file. And then between 150-and a million dollars, there’s a streamlined application. We’ve submitted a couple of PPP forgiveness applications, and it’s taken a long time to get it done. The statistics are about three to four hours for the customer and 17 hours of total review between us and the SBA. So, for a 150,000 loan, they’d be better off just to forget it. Everybody agrees on that, but we can’t get Congress to act because they’re busy doing other things.
EEDC: Lastly, EEDC will now be receiving the town’s support that previously went to Discover Easton/EBA. How will that change things?
SB: This is not something that the EEDC went looking for. But in terms of leveraging what everybody’s doing in Talbot County and Easton, it makes sense not to have two organizations. Have one organization and have a subset or a committee that would focus on the downtown. With EEDC being responsible for the entire town, I think it makes sense. And we’ll have an opportunity to leverage that money and do more with it.