City of Cullman rolls out website to help local businesses during pandemic, beyond

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CEDA Retail & Workforce Development Manager Susan Eller talks about the agency’s new site for Cullman businesses, www.cullmanis.com, Monday, April 20, 2020. (Heather Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN, Ala. – The Cullman Economic Development Agency (CEDA) on Monday afternoon announced it will be following Birmingham and Huntsville’s leads by creating a website where local business owners can enter their information (updating it as necessary) and site users can look through entries to find the information they need about a business they’re curious about.

CEDA Retail & Workforce Development Manager Susan Eller explained that the site, www.cullmanis.com, is still under construction. However, business owners are still able to enter their information; the site will be ready to launch soon. The inspiration came from similar sites for Birmingham (www.localdistancing.com) and Huntsville (www.getyourgifton.org) which display individualized tabs for each participating business containing hours of operation, occupancy numbers, any delivery options available and other important information. However, Eller said she, along with Cullman Mayor Woody Jacobs, hopes this site will continue to provide a service to Cullman businesses long after COVID-19 cases have subsided. Therefore, the site does not contain any reference to the pandemic; rather, it’s a revival of a previous marketing campaign: “Cullman is…”

The site, once fully up and running, will let users navigate based on the type of business they are looking for. At the start, three tabs will fill in the blank in the site’s header, each leading to the appropriate business type; for example, Cullman is…Great Food would take the user to restaurants, Cullman is…Great Shopping would lead to retailers, and Cullman is…Taking Care of You would lead to service providers. In addition to the focus on businesses, Eller and Jacobs both expressed hope that in the future the site could be used to also promote other things like festivals or Cullman Parks, Recreation & Sports Tourism events.

Currently, the form to submit a business (https://cullmanis.com/) allows submitters to enter all the usual information (address, contact info, hours of operation), but also various social media links, order options (Can people purchase gift cards? Alcoholic beverages? Is there a drive thru or curbside pickup?) and delivery options. Eller also said the form does not require businesses to submit photos or logos because she is aware that some people may not have them, and nobody should be excluded from this service because of that.

The service will be completely free to all businesses hosted on the page, even after the pandemic has subsided.

Eller commented, “We actually talked about, while this is going on, we do it for free, and then when this is over, we charge them $10 a month or something. But they were like no, let’s do this as a service to the community.” 

She went on to further express her gratitude to the businesses that make Cullman what it is, saying, “You know, we’ve depended on these restaurants. We’ve asked them to support our soccer teams, support our cheerleaders, support our schools. I think a few weeks ago they supported a young lady who had cancer. We’ve asked them to support us, and this is a time when we can hopefully support them in their time of need.”

Jacobs, while frustrated at the sudden wrench thrown into the plans he had anticipated, said he plans to tie the site into his Cullman Connects project, saying, “It’s a short-term project but a long-term goal. We’re moving up in the digital world.”

Overall, Eller stressed the importance of business owners submitting their information as soon as possible. This way, any issues with the system can be found and corrected quickly, and the full site can be launched faster.

“If we want to get this running, they really need to reach out to us,” she said. “The faster we get it in, the faster we get it up.”

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Heather Mann

heather@cullmantribune.com