New travel trailers at the east entrance of the Del Yermo RV Park in Calipatria were provided for the Niland fire victims by the county of Imperial. Approximately 21 families were being housed at the RV park. | CORISSA IBARRA PHOTO
IMPERIAL COUNTY — With support from the Imperial Valley Business Recovery Task Force, Imperial County has launched an effort to build a list of local emergency vendors willing and able to respond to emergencies as has been experienced through the COVID-19 pandemic and the June 28 fire in Niland, according to a joint press release from the county and the task force.
Since March, when the coronavirus began to spread in the Imperial Valley, a number of local businesses have responded to the county’s need for emergency vendors in what has proven to be a mutually beneficial effort — the emergency needs are met by local businesses and those businesses that participate receive what amounts to an economic boost during these challenging times, according to the Aug. 17 release.
The emergency vendors have been so helpful, county officials said, that now it only makes sense to bolster the list of local businesses able to participate in difficult times, whether it be natural disasters, pandemics or other emergencies that may arise. Throughout the county, restaurants have stepped forward with meals, hotels have provided rooms, RV parks have provided spaces, and hardware businesses have provided needed equipment to support their community through the pandemic and the Niland fire.
Recognizing the need for local business support, County Executive Officer Tony Rouhotas Jr. stated, “We wanted to look into how we can make a list of emergency vendors when emergencies, like we’re experiencing now, do occur.”
To help seek more businesses for inclusion on the county’s emergency procurement list, the county enlisted the aid of the Imperial Valley Business Recovery Task Force, a group of business resource agencies, formed to support business in the wake of the pandemic.
The task force has recently sent an email countywide to businesses seeking their interest in serving as an emergency vendor and providing information and a form on how to join the county’s procurement list.
“We understand that every opportunity, no matter how big or small, is critical for the business community right now. With that mindset, we have come alongside the county’s effort, and boosted it with outreach to the business community,” stated Brawley Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Katie Luna, the coordinator of the business recovery task force.
“Despite the challenges local businesses have faced, many have kept their doors open to ensure the community has food and shelter, along with other necessities. For some businesses, the emergency vendor contracts have been the critical piece needed to remain open,” Luna added in the release.
“I think that mutually beneficial outcome is a story that needs to be told,” Rouhotas stated.
Zendejas Hardware in Calipatria was one of the businesses that has served as an emergency vendor in response to the Niland fire. Chris Zendejas, an owner of the hardware company, said the contract with the county was beneficial both to his company and in return to the community.
“We were able to help out a lot of victims of the fire,” Zendejas said, adding if the county needs help again, his business will be there.
Mitch Matthews, owner of Del Yermo RV Park in Calipatria, has also served as an emergency vendor, opening up his park to house more than 20 travel trailers that are now serving as shelter for the families who lost their homes in the Niland fire.
“The county reached out to me, and I understood there was a need,” Matthews said. “There were a lot of families that were displaced.”
Having the travel trailers placed at his RV park also came at the right time to help his business, which has had just gone through renovations. “It was great timing to fill our park. We were able to fill up the park and help some of these families,” he said.
In addition to accepting the travel trailers into his park, Matthews said he was happy to be able to raise donations of clothing, toys, and other necessities to help the families. Other local businesses also stepped up with donations when it was most needed.
Bloom to Box, based in Calipatria, was one of the businesses that donated to help in the wake of the Niland fire by donating water trucks to help with dust mitigation during the cleanup of the properties destroyed in the fire.
“Whatever we could do, that’s what we were going to do,” said Mark McBroom, owner of the Bloom to Box.
County officials stated they are thankful to all the local businesses that have played a role in helping their communities during these challenging times and while looking to thank each one of those businesses, they also want to prepare for the future by expanding the list of emergency vendors.
“Our businesses are going to play a critical part in our recovery, after COVID” Luna stated, adding the task force is happy to be working with the county to expand the list of emergency vendors. “We want to make sure we are supporting our local businesses, so they remain part of our communities, and that there are jobs for people to come back to.”
To help businesses join the list of emergency vendors, the task force, in its email to local businesses, includes a vendor registration form that must be filled out and emailed back to the county purchasing department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions on the emergency vendor procurement effort, contact Katie Luna at the Brawley Chamber of Commerce, 760-344-3160.