On Friday I emailed you to inform you of how the Chamber and our affiliate organizations were responding to the Coronavirus outbreak. Our commitment remains with serving you and the communities of North Central Massachusetts in any capacity we can during this unprecedented time. The situation remains fluid and conditions have already changed since my last message. Therefore, I wanted to update you on our most recent efforts to help you navigate these troubled waters. Please keep in mind that our plans may change as new information arises.
Emergency Loan Fund: We are launching an Emergency Loan program to provide quick approval with loans of up to $20,000 to help businesses. Loans will be awarded to qualifying local businesses that need access to capital and want to avoid high-interest credit cards or expensive and un-regulated online lenders. If approved, the business is also eligible to receive business assistance from our NCMDC staff and consultants. To qualify, you must be an existing small business and be able to provide two years of tax returns, as well as demonstrate a direct financial impact of Coronavirus on your business. The loan amounts and terms may be flexible to fit the situation of the business. We also continue to provide loans of up to $150,000 through our existing loan programs, but those may take longer to approve. Please contact Sandie Cataldo at firstname.lastname@example.org or Brendan Hannen at email@example.com to inquire about a loan if you need one. We are also in close contact with the SBA and other economic development partners and can connect businesses to other lending resources if needed;
Dedicated Email Hotline: To provide support during this crisis, we have established a dedicated email hotline – firstname.lastname@example.org – for businesses to contact us for assistance. This special inbox will be monitored by several staff. We will do our best to respond to requests for help as they come in. If we are unable to help, then we will try to connect you with someone who can. We will strive to respond as quickly as possible;
Visitor Center: Effective today, as a precaution, our Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on Route 2 in Lancaster will be closed. This was a difficult decision, but the center is a very high traffic location and we want to ensure the traveling public and our staff are safe. MassDOT will be placing port-a-johns in the parking lot during the closure and a sanitary cleaning of the facility has been scheduled for the near future;
Marketing/Promotions: We are working on promotional efforts to help those businesses that have been most impacted. Yesterday, we launched “Takeout Blitz” on our social media to support the restaurant community and have seen a strong response so far. We have a very strong social media presence and encourage members to email David Ginisi, marketing and communications manager, with any news, updates or promotions that your business is offering during this situation. We will make every effort to share that information and are working with other economic development and business groups to assist businesses through this disruption and once it has passed;
Coronavirus Information & Resources: Our Coronavirus Information Page is continuously updated with the latest guidance from local, state and federal authorities. We are committed to keeping our members and the public informed and will be posting throughout this crisis on our various social media platforms as new information becomes available. If you have not done so yet, please follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram;
Webinars: We are in the process of developing several webinars to provide immediate guidance to businesses and encourage you to check our calendar of events and webinar library regularly. Details will be posted soon. Please email Kat Deal, our program and events manager, at email@example.com with any specific topic ideas that you think would be of value to your business at this moment;
Coronavirus Impact Survey: We continue to collect responses to our survey on business impacts. To date, we have had over 170 members respond to the survey. If you have not done so yet, please take a moment to complete it. The responses will help us assess the impact of our efforts, develop helpful tools and resources and advocate for recovery measures. All information will be reported in general terms and individual business information will remain confidential;
Chamber Events: In light of the Governor’s action yesterday, we have cancelled or postponed meetings and events through early April. We will work to reschedule many of these to later in the Spring. Please visit our website for the status of our programs.
Chamber Operations: Effective Tuesday, March 17, 2020 the Chamber will implement a skeleton crew at our office and apply remote work options for the remainder of our team. This decision was made with an abundance of caution and in the interest of protecting the health and safety of our staff and clients. We want to make sure that we can continue to be a resource to you during this crisis. All staff will have access to their emails and voicemail and can respond to requests as quickly as possible
In closing, we recognize the challenges and uncertainty that you are feeling right now. We are here for you. At its core – the Chamber is a network of businesses that come together to support each other and provide leadership in their communities. I am confident that we will get through this, better and stronger by working together!
Roy Nascimento, IOM, CCE
President & CEO