Tuscaloosa, Alabama is a town that thrives off of business produced from the thousands of students that come from around the world to attend The University of Alabama. This business is amplified when hundreds of thousands of fans pile into the city during the fall to watch UA’s football team. It’s easy to see the effects of the pandemic on the economy as a whole, but things have affected local businesses differently.
When the pandemic first started and everyone was sent home in the Spring of 2020, the biggest question in everyone’s mind was, “would we be back for the fall?” The university being open for football season brings so much revenue to the area that it is nearly impossible for businesses to survive without it.
No one was more concerned about the status of the university reopening than Christina McCalpine, property manager for the Spaces Property, Crimson Place Condominiums.
“When it [the pandemic] first happened, leasing completely stopped,” McCalpine explained. “We had to get really creative because there were no walk-in clients.”
It may not occur to most that housing properties do not use extensive digital marketing. McCalpine explained that especially for university housing, most of the business came to them because students were always looking for housing. This is supposed to be the advantage of University Housing. The demand creates itself because of the location. However, if no students are in town, then the demand goes away.
“I had never used facebook or social media for marketing before COVID,” McCalpine said. “It was an adjustment having to come up with digital ads and schemes.”
McCalpine had to hustle to find business during this time of uncertainty.
The University of Alabama was one of the first schools to announce the return to in-person school that fall, and the lack of business due to missing students was a major reason why.
Once news came out that students would be returning in the fall of 2020, property managers could breathe a sigh of relief as business would be returning to somewhat normal levels. The One thing that McCalpine took away was, “be prepared for the unexpected. I now know that I can get it done no matter what happens.”
As things have slowly started to return to normal, the whole city is now prepared for the wrost. Everyone from students to business owners to employees has been challenged in a variety of ways, but moving forward they know that Tuscaloosa can make it through anything.