Roy Nascimento, IOM, CCE
President & CEO
North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce
As fall begins to give way to winter, we continue to be laser focused on helping our members and communities navigate these troubled waters. We know that balancing everything that has been thrown at you this year has been difficult and stressful. Since the start, the Chamber has responded with guidance, resources and a strong support system to help you adjust and respond. I wanted to provide you with another update to continue to keep you informed on some of the Chamber’s most recent efforts:
Business Impact Survey: As a follow-up to the initial survey done in March, the Chamber is conducting a second survey to understand the continuing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The first survey was very helpful to form our response. This new survey is intended to capture fresh data and dive deeper into the impact to local businesses. The survey will build off the last one and support ongoing recovery efforts. Please consider taking the survey. Responses will be kept confidential, however results will be shared in the aggregate.
Jobs Board: We have improved some features of our www.WorkNorthCentral.com jobs board. These changes are intended to make it easier for job seekers to find job opportunities that match their interests. Visitors now have the option to search by company, job descriptions and location, plus they can filter their results by industry and employment type. Job seekers can also sign up to receive emails on new job postings. Since we launched WorkNorthCentral.com last year, the online jobs resource has grown into the largest localized jobs board in the region. Over 700 jobs are currently posted on the jobs board and more are added every day. As a reminder, job postings are completely free for Chamber members and posting is easy. We encourage you to take advantage of this resource for all your hiring needs.
Low Interest Loans: We are excited to launch a new loan program through our economic development arm – the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation – that we believe will be a great help to many small businesses. We have structured this new loan program to provide loans of up to $150,000 with very flexible terms, low fees and interest rates as low as 1% for existing businesses and 5% for start-up businesses. Monthly payments will also be deferred for up to one year on the loans, depending on the situation. The new loan program is being funded by a federal grant we received and can be used for a multitude of purposes including working capital and refinancing existing debt. Please reach out to us if you are interested in exploring a loan through this program.
Marketing Efforts: We continue to develop marketing campaigns through our tourism arm – Visit North Central Massachusetts – aimed at supporting economic recovery in the region. We believe that recovery must start locally, so we are targeting the local population and the regional drive market with messaging about the region and supporting local businesses. Our marketing is informed by research that suggests that North Central Massachusetts is potentially well positioned to benefit from changing consumer demands. We have developed new locally focused content, new messaging and we are utilizing digital and social media channels to promote, connect and engage with consumers. The results from our Fall campaign are encouraging and we plan to continue to ramp up our efforts with more paid and organic social media and advertising in the comings weeks and months.
Advocacy: We were pleased to see the Governor release his revised FY21 budget proposal which included many of our priorities to support economic recovery, including $100 million in new small business relief. The budget still needs to be approved by the legislature, so we will be working to make sure that happens in the coming days and weeks.
Gift Local Gift Cards: As thoughts start to turn toward the holidays, I wanted to remind you about the Chamber’s Gift Local Gift Card program. This shop local initiative was established several years ago and has taken on a new urgency given the impact from the pandemic. If you are a local merchant or restaurant, then consider signing on to accept the gift cards. Alternatively, if you are a local employer, then consider supporting local merchants by purchasing these gift cards for your employees or clients. All fees have been waived. You can find more information on our website or www.GiftLocal.net.
Online Programs: The way we all live and work has changed dramatically, but we know it remains critically important for you to stay informed and connected with our communities. Since the start of the pandemic, we have made it a priority to deliver relevant programing to you – hosting nearly seventy-five different online programs that have helped to inform, educate and connect our members and communities. We encourage you to check our website and social media platforms for updates on upcoming programs. You can also search and view encore recordings of previous programs in our improved online library.
We haven’t taken our foot off the gas. We continue to do all of this and more on behalf of our members, our communities and our region. We remain committed to helping you get through these unprecedented times and to play a leadership role in supporting the economic recovery of North Central Massachusetts.
To learn more about the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce, please visit www.NorthCentralMass.com or call 978.353.7600.