An Updated Message From the Chamber President

Dear Member,

I wanted to provide you with another update on the Chamber’s efforts to support local businesses and our communities during the Coronavirus crisis. We understand the tremendous impact that this health crisis is having on our members and communities and have focused all of our efforts and resources on helping you navigate this unprecedented challenge.  At the same time, we are looking ahead and preparing post-crisis recovery efforts to help you recover quickly and get back to business once this has passed, and it will pass!

CARES Act: Last week Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act of 2020 (CARES). Among its many provisions, the CARES Act will include $377B in loans and loan forgiveness for small businesses. The Act also includes tax relief measures and various grant programs for impacted industries. Click here for a summary of those aspects of the legislation most relevant to our region. More information will be made available in the days and weeks to come as the federal government works out the details. We encourage you to check our website for updates and for upcoming webinars on the CARES Act;

Emergency Loans: Unfortunately, we have seen very strong interest in our Emergency Loan Program. Our team has been working hard to keep up with the requests and move them through the process quickly. To assist businesses, we have reduced our interest rate and have eliminated the closing fee on these emergency loans. We are also structuring the loans with favorable terms. If you need a small loan to get you through this period until stimulus money kicks in, then please contact Sandie Cataldo at scataldo@northcentralmass.com or Brendan Hannen atbhannen@northcentralmass.com. We are in the process of recapitalizing our fund to ensure that we can continue to meet the needs of local businesses. Also, for those of you that may require a larger loan, the SBA Disaster Loan Program can now provide up to $10 million dollars;

Video Message: If you have not seen it, then I would encourage you to view a special video we premiered on March 22 on the Chamber’s Facebook page. You can click here to view it. This short video with its message of hope, community and resiliency was developed by our team in an effort to inspire people and raise spirts. The video has already been shared over 330 times and has had over 37,000 views and growing on Facebook! That doesn’t include the video views on our other social media platforms (YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn) and the Chamber website.  Special thanks to member and motivational speaker Maria Milagros for narrating the video;

Chamber Office: The Chamber is deemed an essential business under the guidelines announced by Governor Baker last week. However, as a safety precaution, we have closed the office temporarily and will limit access to the public. We will be available by appointment at the office to provide services that need to be made in person, such as certificates of export for our manufacturers and insurance related matters. We will also be performing loan closings at the office related to our Emergency Loan Program. Except for these instances, staff will work remotely per the protocols that we have in place. Please contact us if you need to schedule an appointment;

Equipment Donations: All four of our hospital systems – Health Alliance, Heywood, Nashoba Medical and Emerson – reached out to us and requested help securing additional personal protective equipment (PPE).  We have been proactive in our outreach to businesses to secure donations and we have also reached out to most of the region’s manufacturers to inquire if they can modify their production to assist with producing these products. We have received a tremendous response. Thank you to all of you that reached out. It has been very inspiring to see our members rally together to offer any help they could during this time of crisis. Please contact us for more information on how to donate items or if your company is interested in producing PPE items. The state also just established an online portal for PPE donations and procurement that can be found here;

Webinars: We have already conducted several webinars to help businesses, with several more in the works. The webinars were recorded and are available on our website to view. We also have a webinar this week that will review the CARES Act and another scheduled for next week on applying for the new Payroll Protection Program and other grants/loans through the SBA. I encourage you to check out our website and social media for updates;

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 continue posting throughout this crisis on our various social media platforms as information becomes available.  If you have not done so yet, please follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram;

Jobs Board: We have been updating our WorkNorthCentral.com online jobs board to help recently displaced workers find new jobs opportunities, as well as help those employers that need immediate help because their needs have changed due to the crisis;

Advocacy & Support: We have been in regular communication with our local, state and federal officials to help with efforts and stay updated on the government’s response. We also continue to collect survey responses from businesses on the impact to their operations. This input from members will be helpful as we communicate with policy leaders, and will help set the stage for recovery efforts;

Finally, I want to extend my thanks to all of those members and their dedicated employees, across all sectors, who are in many cases risking their own safety to respond to this national and global pandemic. These include our health care institutions on the front line, our manufacturers who are playing an important role in the supply chain, our markets and farms who are working to keep people fed, and many more. Stay strong. We will get through this, together.

 

 

 

 

Roy Nascimento, IOM, CCE

President & CEO 

CARES Act – Everything You Need to Know

Last week, Congress passed the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act). This 880-page legislation was passed in response to the Coronavirus crisis and has major implications for our economy. More information and details will emerge in the coming days and weeks, but below is a summary of some of the key features of the legislation that are relevant to our members and industries here in North Central Massachusetts:

  • Paycheck Protection Program: This includes $350 billion in funding for loans to small businesses and other entities, including 501 (c) 3 non-profits with zero-fee loans of up to $10 million. Up to 8 weeks of average payroll and other costs will be forgiven if the business retains its employees and their salary levels. Principal and interest is deferred for up to a year and all borrower fees are waived. This temporary emergency assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Treasury can be used in coordination with other COVID-financing assistance established in the bill or any other existing SBA loan program.
  • Emergency Economic Injury Grants: This includes $10 billion in funding for a provision to provide an advance of $10,000 to small businesses and nonprofits that apply for an SBA economic injury disaster loan (EIDL) within three days of applying for the loan. EIDLs are loans of up to $2 million that carry interest rates up to 3.75 percent for companies and up to 2.75 percent for nonprofits, as well as principal and interest deferment for up to 4 years. The loans may be used to pay for expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred, including payroll and other operating expenses.
  • The EIDL grant does not need to be repaid, even if the grantee is subsequently denied an EIDL, and may be used to provide paid sick leave to employees, maintaining payroll, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments. Eligible grant recipients must have been in operation on January 31, 2020. The grant is available to small businesses, private nonprofits, sole proprietors and independent contractors, tribal businesses, as well as cooperatives and employee-owned businesses.
  • A business that receives an EIDL between January 31, 2020 and June 30, 2020 as a result of a COVID-19 disaster declaration is eligible to apply for a PPP loan or the business may refinance their EIDL into a PPP loan. In either case, the emergency EIDL grant award of up to $10,000 would be subtracted from the amount forgiven in the Paycheck Protection Plan.
  • Support for Impacted Industries, States and Cities: It directs $454 billion to the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve to aid affected industries with secured loans, loan guarantees, and other financial measures.
  • Tax relief to mitigate losses, pay employees, and cover utilities: Impacted businesses may temporarily defer tax liability, access an Employee Retention Tax Credit, delay or eliminate estimated quarterly tax payments and filings deadlines, and carry-back the Net Operating Loss (NOL) Deduction.
  • Support for Hospital and Other Health Care Providers: It directs $100 billion to reimburse eligible health care providers for health care related expenses or lost revenues not otherwise reimbursed that are directly attributable to COVID-19. Eligible providers are defined as public entities, Medicare- or Medicaid-enrolled suppliers and providers, and other for-profit and non-profit entities as specified by the Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary.
Please consider the Chamber a resource as you navigate this crisis. If you have any questions regarding this legislation or the public sector’s response to COVID-19 at the federal, state, or municipal levels, please do not hesitate to contact the Chamber’s public affairs manager, Christopher McDermott, at cmcdermott@northcentralmass.com or 978.353.7600 ext. 224.

A LIST OF ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES: Updated 3.31.20

Per an announcement made by Governor Baker, the Commonwealth has updated the list of essential businesses during the COVD-19 pandemic and has also extended the stay-at-home advisory through Monday, May 4th.

New guidances were announced today around hotels, motels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals.

See the updated list of essential businesses HERE

EMERGENCY MICRO-LOAN PROGRAM LAUNCHES

The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation has launched an Emergency Micro-loan Program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to assist small businesses that need access to funding due to hardship stemming from the outbreak. Loans of up to $20,000 will be awarded to qualifying local businesses that find themselves in a situation where they 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 NCMDC staff and consultants.

“As we work to confront this Public Health crisis, it is important to remember its effects on our local economy,” said Mayor Stephen DiNatale of Fitchburg. “It is absolutely paramount that we come together to support our small businesses community. I encourage us all to think of the ways we can buy local–ordering takeout, buying gift-cards, doing whatever we can to safely support our neighbors–but at the same time efforts like this emergency loan fund will offer a critical life-line to businesses when they need it most. We are so fortunate to have a partner in the Chamber that works so rapidly to support small businesses in North Central Massachusetts.”

To qualify under this program, 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 COVID-19 on your business. The loan amounts and terms are flexible to fit the situation of the business.

“We are pleased to see the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce’s emergency fund be offered so quickly,” said Mayor Dean Mazzarella of the City of Leominster.  “No business could have ever planned for this pandemic and local businesses now have a loan opportunity that will take them through this difficult situation.”

Additionally, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers low-interest loans to help businesses recover from COVID-19. For more information visit sba.gov/disaster. 

The North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation (NCMDC) is a non-profit economic development corporation with the mission of creating jobs and improving the economy. NCMDC is certified by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and the U.S. Department of the Treasury under the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Program. The NCMDC works in partnership with local banks, credit unions, chambers of commerce and area nonprofits to support emerging microenterprises, small businesses, and community projects in 76 communities in Worcester, Middlesex and Franklin Counties with loans and business assistance.  Since 1996, the NCMDC has granted over $6,900,000 in loans to small businesses to help grow jobs and the economy in the region.

For more information about emergency micro-loans or the other loan programs available through the NCMDC, please contact Sandie Cataldo, Economic Development Manager at SCataldo@northcentralmass.com or at 978-353-7600 ext 232 or VISIT HERE.

An Updated Message From the Chamber President

Dear Member,

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 scataldo@northcentralmass.com or Brendan Hannen at bhannen@northcentralmass.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 – help@northcentralmass.com – 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 kdeal@northcentralmass.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 

A Message from the Chamber President

Dear Member,

It has been a difficult couple of weeks, with the world reacting with uncertainty to the Coronavirus and market news. The North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and our affiliate organizations have been closely monitoring the outbreak and its impact on our members and communities. Our commitment lies with serving you and our region in any capacity we can during this unprecedented time.

I wanted to provide you with an update on how we and our affiliates – the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation and Visit North Central Massachusetts – are responding. This is our plan as of now, but clearly things could change as new information arises.

Chamber Events: It is important that our members remain safe and secure from any potential exposure to the Coronavirus- therefore the Chamber has cancelled most of our major events for the month of March including our Good Morning North Central Breakfast and the upcoming Economic Forecast Breakfast. Many of our smaller events, forums and meetings in March have also been postponed for now. We will work to reschedule many of these to later in the Spring. Any members registered will receive a credit, or a refund if they prefer. We will be closely monitoring the situation and take any necessary precautions regarding April events and meetings as needed. Please stay tuned for more information or visit our website for the status of our programs.

Webinars: We encourage members to explore the webinar library offered on our website that we launched in the Fall.  Stay tuned for new online opportunities for learning and information exchange. Responding to the current situation and in an effort to support members, the Chamber is working on developing new webinars focused on the complex issues facing businesses during this crisis and post-crisis.

Chamber Operations: Both the Chamber Office and our Johnny Appleseed Visitor Center on Route 2 are maintaining regular office hours for now, with special protocols in place. We want to make sure that that we can continue to be a resource to you, so we have also taken the necessary steps so that our team can work remotely, if they need to.

Coronavirus Impact Survey: In an effort to gain an accurate assessment of the outbreak’s impact to businesses, the Chamber has created this brief survey. Thank you to the many members that have already completed the survey. If you have not done so yet, please take a moment to. All information will be reported in general terms and individual business information will remain confidential. Alternatively, please feel free to reach out to me directly with any challenges or disruptions that you have experienced over the last two weeks.

Coronavirus Information & Resources: We have developed an online page with links to different resources to help educate employers and employees on how to prepare for and address the impacts of the Coronavirus. It includes information from the CDC, State and the US Chamber.  We will update this online toolkit as new guidance and information becomes available.  We encourage you to continue to monitor the outbreak and implement strategies to help protect your customers and employees, with the least possible impact to your operations.

Lending and Assistance: Our team is ready to discuss small business assistance programs and loans to help cover any cash flow challenges you may be experiencing from any disruption in business.  If we can’t help, we can connect you to the SBA or one of our other partners who may be able to assist you. Please contact Sandie Cataldo, Economic Development Manager at 978.353.7600 ext. 232 or Brendan Hannen at ext. 234 for assistance or to inquiry about an emergency loan.

Post-Outbreak Recovery Promotion: Our marketing team is strategizing on a few different marketing campaigns to support small businesses in recovering from the disruption. We are also collaborating with other groups in advocating for the development of a state-wide campaign. Please contact David Ginisi, our Marketing and Communications Manager at ext. 240 if you have any thoughts or ideas.

In closing, we recognize that you may be feeling the impact of this crisis in an immediate and profound way. We are committed to helping you get through this. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us if we can help.

 

 

 

Roy Nascimento, IOM, CCE

President & CEO

Coronavirus Impact Survey

Earlier this week, Governor Baker declared a state of emergency due to the outbreak of coronavirus. In an effort to gain an accurate assessment of the outbreak’s impact to businesses in North Central Massachusetts, the Chamber and its affiliate organizations have created this brief survey. Please take a moment to answer the following questions. All information will be reported in general terms and individual business information will remain confidential.

Thank you in advance for your participation. Click here for information and resources for businesses dealing with the Coronavirus Outbreak.

Take the survey now

Real Estate Kept Alive Through Modern Technology

Having been involved for over 30 years, Rick Healey of Foster-Healey Real Estate knows a thing or two about the ever-changing ways of the real restate business.

With a focus on mainly residential properties, Foster-Healey Real Estate prides itself in keeping up with the growing technology since the start of the Internet era. Their agents are well-trained and professional and service the entire marketplace from first-time home buyers to seasoned ones. 

The company was originally founded in 1924 by Ralph Foster, and Healey’s father started working there in the 1950s and started managing in the 1960s. Shortly after, in 1977, the company was bought and became Foster-Healey Real Estate, and the name was kept as the Fosters were well-known in the North Central Mass area. 

Healey took over running the business shortly after his father passed, and has been involved with the North Central Chamber of Commerce since he’s owned the business, and was also a past chairman in 1995. In 1990, Healey also owned and operated Countryside Real Estate in Leominster and Gardner. 

“The [North Central] Chamber of commerce is great at connecting,” Healey said. “As a local business, we enjoy the Chamber working with other locally-owned businesses and being able to connect and work with them. We appreciate what the Chamber does to connect everyone.”

Foster-Healey includes their 3D Matterport Tours in every house they market. According to their website, the “Matterport Tour is an immersive, 360º virtual experience. It is a great tool for engaging our potential home buyers by allowing you to really feel like you are walking-thru the home. What is so neat about the tour, is the fact that you can press the play button at the bottom of the screen, sit back and enjoy a walk-thru video.”

“The Internet has changed everything that we do. The consumer is expecting the best experience possible,” said Healey. “[The 3D Tours] allow the consumer to have the freedom to explore more, and thus, more likely be interested in purchasing the property.”

The Matterport Tours also put things into perspective by allowing the user to virtually tour through a house and put things where they actually are. At times, real estate photos can be digitally altered, but with Foster-Healey Real Estate, you get the real deal. They combine the 3D Matterport Tours with professional photography as well as drone photography to be able to provide the best experience for the consumer looking to purchase or sell. 

In the spring, Foster-Healey Real Estate is looking forward to a great spring market and more 1-on-1 time with clients like first-time home-buyers with the education process. “We see ourselves as a liason or guide for the [home-buying] process, as marketing agents, rather than just listing agents,” said Healey. 

Foster-Healey Real Estate is located at 50 Central Street, Leominster, MA 01453. For more information on Foster-Healey Real Estate, please visit their website at www.foster-healey.com. 

 

North Central NOW is a news segment of the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce that spotlights business and community leaders, as well as relevant business news in various ways including written articles and video segments. For more information on North Central NOW or to be considered for the next segment, please contact David Ginisi, Marketing and Communications Manager at dginisi@northcentralmass.com.

North Central Massachusetts Chamber and Fidelity Bank look to future of economy at Ninth Annual Economic Forecast Breakfast

Community and business leaders will look to the future of the economy in North Central Massachusetts at the Ninth Annual Economic Forecast Breakfast being held on Friday, March 27, 2020 from 7:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. at the Double Tree by Hilton, 99 Erdman Way, Leominster, MA. Sponsored by Fidelity Bank and in partnership with the Greater Gardner, North Quabbin, Nashoba Valley and Wachusett Area Chambers, the breakfast will feature the results of the annual Economic Outlook Survey and remarks from a panel of three featured speakers. 

This year’s Economic Forecast Panel will feature Dr. Tracey Corley, Transit-Oriented Development Fellow at MassINC; Eileen McAnneny, President of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation; and Dr. Bo Zhao, Senior Economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.

Bo Zhao is a senior economist at the New England Public Policy Center in the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Research Department. He specializes in public finance and urban and regional economics. In 2013, he received the Boston Fed’s President’s Award. Zhao earned his PhD in economics and his MS in applied statistics from Syracuse University. He joined the Boston Fed in 2005 and served on the Municipal Aid Subcommittee of the Massachusetts Municipal Finance Task Force from 2006 to 2007. Zhao was selected by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation as one of 20 young scholars nationwide to participate in the 2005 Entrepreneurship Research Boot Camp.

Eileen McAnneny joined the staff of the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation as its President in February, 2015. Founded in 1932, the Taxpayers Foundation is widely recognized as the state’s premier public policy organization dealing with state spending, tax and economic policies. The Foundation’s record of high-quality research and non-partisan analysis has earned the organization broad credibility on Beacon Hill and across the state. Earlier in her career, she worked in the public sector as a staff attorney for the Joint Committee on Revenue of the Massachusetts legislature, playing a key role in numerous significant tax policy changes, including reforms to the corporate tax code, an overhaul of the Appellate Tax Board, amendments to DOR’s administrative practices and updates to unclaimed property collections.  A cum laude graduate of Tufts University and Suffolk University Law School, Ms. McAnneny holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and a juris doctorate in law.   She is a Commissioner of the Group Insurance Commission and on the Board of Directors of the Cooperative Central Bank. She also was appointed by Governor Baker as Vice Chair of the Commission on the Future of Transportation in the Commonwealth.

Dr. Tracy A. Corley, MassINC’s Transit-Oriented Development Fellow, thrives on creating economic opportunities and sustainable livelihoods for people in our world’s metropolitan regions. She brings expertise in economic development, business, labor markets, architecture, law, and public policy to MassINC. As the TOD Fellow, she convenes political and community leaders to spur inclusive development in Massachusetts’ Gateway Cities. Dr. Corley attained her B.A. in Architecture Design from Clemson University and her M.S. in Public Policy and Ph.D. in Law and Public Policy from Northeastern University.

The cost is just $35 for Chamber members/$50 for non-members and includes a breakfast buffet. Tables of ten are also available.  Pre-registration is required. For more information or to register, please contact the Chamber at 978.353.7600 ext. 235 or CLICK HERE.