Fidelity Bank, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce join forces to assist minority business owners with critical funding during pandemic

Collaboration resulted in more than $1.3 million for small businesses in North Central Massachusetts

As the COVID-19 pandemic created several challenges for local business owners, Fidelity Bank, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce and its economic development arm, the North Central Massachusetts Development Corporation, collaborated to process and service more than $1.3 million as part of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Of this total, more than $660,000 in PPP loans were part of the Urban Agenda Grant Program, which promotes economic vitality in urban neighborhoods and a means of supporting urban small business owners affected by COVID-19.

A survey conducted by the chamber following the launch of the federal PPP program concluded that some businesses did not fit into the federal programs, and that many underserved and minority businesses were unable to access traditional banks for PPP loans.

“We live in the communities with our clients which enables us to have a unique perspective to understand the importance of ensuring our local businesses prosper, especially when challenges occur out of their control,” said Ed Manzi, Chairman and CEO, Fidelity Bank. “By collaborating with the chamber and its development corporation, we were able to utilize our unique LifeDesign banking approach and provide assistance and clarity to get critical funding support to underserved small businesses who otherwise would not have obtained funding.”

As part of the Urban Agenda Initiative, the North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce partnered with New Vue Communities, Reimagine North of Main, the Spanish American Center, and the Cities of Fitchburg and Leominster, to provide technical assistance and access to resources.  The Chamber and its partners focused outreach efforts to reach underserved and vulnerable small businesses in the community.  The average amount of the loans made was just $15,000.

“What started as emergency financing to help small businesses until the federal government responded evolved over time into providing PPP loans directly to businesses who could not secure them through other sources,” said Roy M. Nascimento, President and CEO, North Central Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce. “We also expanded our team to respond to the urgency of the underserved businesses and we now have a multi-lingual member on the team to support outreach for our Latino businesses, which comprise the largest minority group in the region.”

The development corporation processed 72 loans in round two of the PPP loan program, with Fidelity Bank servicing 64 of those loans. All of the loans were approved.

“Fidelity Bank was part of a coalition of other financial institutions in the area, including BankHometown, Berkshire Bank, Digital Federal Credit Union, Main Street Bank and Worker’s Credit Union to serve our vulnerable business owners,” added Nascimento. “Regardless of the fact that these banks are likely competitors, they all came together to do what was right by the businesses in our communities.”

Two of the businesses that obtained critical funding support from the second round of PPP loans through this collaboration were Lucy’s Furniture in Fitchburg, and Pablo’s Paint and Remodeling in Leominster.

“As the owner of Lucy’s Furniture, I want to thank the Chamber of Commerce and Fidelity Bank for assisting me with the Small Business Association PPP application,” said Wilson Arrua, Owner, Lucy’s Furniture. “During the pandemic, the upholstery business was very slow which resulted in being late on my bills. With this loan, I was able to become current on my payments and it helped get me through the pandemic.”

Pablo Ortiz, Owner, Pablo’s Paint and Remodeling said of the loan assistance, “Thank you very much to the Chamber and Fidelity Bank for your valuable help to process the PPP loan. This funding helped us stay afloat despite the terrible situation with the pandemic.”

“The past year and a half proved that when we work together, we can survive and thrive regardless of the circumstances that surround us,” said Manzi. “Fidelity Bank was here to help, and we remain an active participant in our community to ensuring all of our clients, both individuals and businesses alike, have a caring partner to guide them through opportunities and challenges and get them where they want to be.”