by Kristy Crisp, Economic Development Director
Economic development is both rewarding and challenging for many of the same reasons. Most of the work that we do requires developing relationships with members of our community, potential developers and others interested in Gastonia.
As our businesses grow, we celebrate with them, but also when times are tough it is hard to separate from their struggles. This is the case that the Economic Development Department has been grappling with since the onset of COVID-19.
From the beginning, Economic Development Specialist Tori Stalcup has exhibited the strong emotional intelligence needed to navigate personalities. Her resiliency coupled with her strength have made her perfect for working with our Downtown property owners and businesses. COVID-19 has only amplified her passion for her work. As the pandemic started and the stay-at-home orders began, Tori watched with a feeling of helplessness as our businesses began to close. Instantly she began talking with each one, compassionately listening to their stories and fear.
Tori turned that into determination to explore every way the City could assist our businesses during this time. When the large federal loan programs and unemployment proved to be challenging, Tori would touch base with all businesses, provide contact information and help connect our businesses to a person who could help them.
When Gastonia became a partner with the Gaston County COVID Relief fund, Tori made sure each business was applying to get assistance with utility payments.
But with all this work, what struck me was how this pandemic brought out even more in Tori. I laughed as she began a mission to get takeout meals from every Downtown restaurant and post photos on social media. I am pretty sure that most all of Tori’s COVID relief check went back into Downtown Gastonia.
She did all of this not because it was her job, but she told me one morning that she felt a weight of gratitude. Working with local businesses and seeing their struggles gave her a greater understanding of what it means to work in public service. She struggled with the knowledge that while so many were hurting, City government employees were fortunate to continue working and getting paid. It made her work even harder to listen and support our businesses with gratitude and humility.
Tori’s selflessness during COVID is a great reminder for us all that working in public service is a rewarding calling.