One story has dominated the enterprise panorama this yr — COVID-19. The previous 9 months have been stuffed with ups and downs for companies, their staff and all of us as we navigated the fact of coping with a world pandemic.
Initially, there have been closures of companies deemed non-essential in Pennsylvania, adopted by protected reopening as Pennsylvania maneuvered Gov. Tom Wolf’s purple, yellow and inexperienced phased reopening plan. Then, as COVID instances began to rise once more throughout the area, one other discount in how companies can function adopted.
There have been job losses, grants and mortgage packages to help companies and community-driven efforts to maintain the give attention to the area’s small companies and their significance to the economic system.
The pandemic compelled companies and the neighborhood to pivot — to vary the best way we do enterprise, the best way we work and the issues we count on.
As we transfer into the New 12 months — with more durable pointers in place till at the least Jan. 4, 2021 — MediaNews Group requested a number of space enterprise advocates to mirror on this previous yr and to look forward to 2021.
Dave Zellers, Montgomery County Director of Commerce
2020 has been a take a look at of our shared endurance and resilience; 2021 will probably be a take a look at of our shared dedication to 1 one other and the following steps on a journey to construct a extra resilient, inclusive, and vibrant economic system. Everybody and each group has a job to play within the difficult and rewarding work forward.
For people, we will all commit ourselves to purchasing native, staying the course with COVID-19 mitigation measures, and supporting our neighbors and mates who’ve felt the brunt of 2020’s furor. The considerate train of selecting to buy native, of committing to #TakeoutTuesday or comparable initiatives, and of being charitable are easy acts that make a giant distinction for folks, companies, and communities. For companies in our county, discovering alternatives to reinvigorate and develop new native and regional provide chains are paramount; sourcing sources and supplies regionally means creating native jobs and financial exercise that can propel the restoration at a ferocious tempo. And as native companies develop anew, the chance to rent and develop native expertise will probably be extra urgent than ever. For our neighborhood, county, and regional leaders, everybody can pull collectively to seek out widespread floor to advocate in Harrisburg and Washington, D.C. for some of the dynamic counties and areas in our nation as all of us work to raise our standing domestically and globally.
Let’s all begin 2021 with a shared dedication to purchasing native, hiring native, sourcing native, masking up, and lifting our neighbors and communities to new heights. These easy actions will give us the muse we should be brave and optimistic in regards to the future.
Man Ciarrocchi, President & CEO, Chester County Chamber of Enterprise and Business
This yr’s occasions have examined us in methods we had by no means been examined.
The results of the virus and insurance policies that officers have imposed — with restricted financial help and far contradictory info — haven’t solely harmed our bodily well-being, but additionally have deeply harmed our emotional, societal and political well being.
This has left us all with necessary questions. When will issues be regular? Will the “subsequent regular” appear like the prior regular? Will closed companies re-open; will the staff ever discover jobs?
Has the divide amongst events and ideologies grown too deep? What values and what establishments will we all nonetheless imagine in — that we will construct on to make us bodily, emotionally, sociologically and economically stronger?
Chester County entered the COVID-era with the strongest economic system in Pennsylvania and some of the economically numerous and vibrant economies in America. Our economic system’s solely “weaknesses” have been looking for staff and placing the academic and bodily infrastructure in place to maintain tempo.
Chester County enters 2021 as “primary” once more, but, in very completely different circumstances. Most residents are actually “again to work” roughly. But, companies are closed; storefronts sit vacant; and — most significantly — some neighbors aren’t working or have decreased hours and wages.
Our problem shouldn’t be merely confronting the virus however overcoming the misguided — if well-intentioned — insurance policies which have typically worsened the issues and societal divisions that made us combat (or retreat) slightly than work in direction of the widespread good based mostly on widespread values.
Our chamber will use each avenue at our disposal and won’t relaxation till nobody is left behind. We’re neither optimistic nor pessimistic. We’re lifelike. We all know that path ahead, and we’re on the lookout for allies to hitch our dedication to regrowth and particular person alternative and liberty.
Pam Kelly, President and CEO, The Chamber of Commerce for Higher Montgomery County
2020 started with such pleasure for a brand new yr, a brand new decade. Native companies have been having fun with a powerful economic system with the expectation for continued progress. The information on Friday, March 13 hit like a intestine punch when it was reported that every one companies have been to close down to be able to “flatten the curve.”
The continued results of the pandemic have been harsh on many native companies whereas others discovered methods to pivot by creating new merchandise or discovering a brand new a buyer base. A number of industries have been capable of thrive because of our elevated time at house. No matter how the enterprise was impacted, we proceed to see the resilience and dedication displayed by the house owners and workers. They’ve tailored by rising the usage of social media to stay related, providing curbside, take-out, and supply service. New partnerships with different retailers resulted to be able to benefit from an prolonged attain that got here from collaborative advertising. All through the previous 9 months, organizations from across the county, together with The Chamber have provided help by means of fundraising and consciousness campaigns to offer help.
The Chamber of Commerce for Higher Montgomery County has endured many challenges all through its 107-year historical past. It’s with that reflection that we’re assured and really optimistic that Montgomery County companies will start to see a restoration in 2021. It’ll take time, however with the assistance of presidency sources and the help of the neighborhood, we’ll stay #smallbusinessSTRONG.
Michael Grigalonis, Chief Working Officer and Government Vice President, Chester County Financial Growth Council
Like most companies going through the challenges introduced by COVID-19, we needed to adapt and innovate. We redefined workers roles, reprioritized service choices, and reworked our service supply mannequin so we may present help to the Chester County enterprise neighborhood once they wanted us most. From a consumer servicing perspective, we turned the again workplace for loans and grant packages, offering critically wanted monetary help to corporations all through Chester County. Throughout the earlier months of COVID-19, the Council supplied 98 corporations with a complete of $7.3 million in mortgage help by means of the Commonwealth’s COVID Working Capital Help program, adopted by administering $5 million in grants to 248 corporations by means of the County’s Most important Avenue Grant program. That work continues as our County and area’s corporations navigate adjustments to our state and native well being care pointers.
Whereas COVID is actually the overwhelming information of the day, we’re inspired to see how so many corporations, non-profits, educators, and households have come collectively to collectively handle the specifics of transitioning from life as we have now recognized it.
It was an unforgettable yr in so some ways! Looking forward to 2021, I’m optimistic in regards to the prospects of restoration however imagine an environment friendly vaccine distribution technique that accelerates a re-opening of our economic system will probably be vital.
Marian Moskowitz, Chester County Commissioners’ Chairwoman
This has little question been an odd and difficult yr for our native companies. The coronavirus pandemic has put a lot of our plans on maintain and reshuffled our priorities to maintain our economic system afloat. On the county stage, we shortly set to work to assist our companies by coordinating with the Chester County Financial Growth Council in organising the Most important Avenue Preservation Grant packages which supplied $15 million to our small companies and our agricultural neighborhood to assist ease a few of the ache. We additionally developed the Restore Chester County web site, together with our terrific county companions, to offer companies with the instruments they should open and function safely.
As we head into 2021, I’m impressed by the distinctive new methods our companies have tailored to the pandemic society. The pandemic has compelled many companies out of their consolation zone to strive new methods and discover new methods of working to assist promote social distancing and fewer contact. I’m extremely hopeful that in a post-pandemic world we will be taught from these new methods and supply a greater and extra environment friendly method of doing enterprise in Chester County. As a enterprise proprietor, I’m extremely pleased with all our small enterprise house owners who’re desperately doing all the pieces of their energy to maintain working.
Michelle Kichline, Chester County Commissioner
The enterprise neighborhood in Chester County got here collectively in 2020 to help one another and their employees. We noticed sacrifices, resiliency and innovation to satisfy the challenges of the pandemic. The hospitality, restaurant and Most important Avenue retail companies have been significantly impacted this yr, and this has been a monetary problem for a lot of employees in these industries. The roll-out of the vaccine gives hope for a lot of, however the virus and its challenges will affect companies effectively into 2021. As well as, it can change the footprint of how companies will probably be bodily situated. Happily, the demographics and bodily infrastructure of Chester County has confirmed to be the kind of location that the publish pandemic world is looking for. We as a county must work with our personal sector to bridge the hole wanted to maintain our present companies and entice new companies. Lastly, on condition that our smaller retail companies and eating places have shaped a profitable spine of our city renaissance, we have to proceed to seek out methods to help them throughout what is going to proceed to be a difficult first quarter of 2021.
Mike Bowman, President & CEO, Valley Forge Tourism & Conference Board
The yr 2020 has challenged, examined, and humbled us in methods we couldn’t probably have imagined.
Montgomery County, particularly the hospitality sector, was one of many first — and hardest hit — areas within the state by COVID-19, and the ripple results of lots of of canceled occasions, hundreds of misplaced room nights, and jobs, harm lots of people.
Tourism is often a key financial driver in Montco, contributing $1.65 billion in optimistic affect, and greater than 20,000 jobs. This business stimulates — and advantages — many companies, cities, and communities.
Our tourism and hospitality business has been bent, sure, however not damaged. And, it can bounce again. As a result of true power and resiliency develops in surviving a disaster.
In Montco, we’re extra than simply robust. We’re robust. We endure hardship. We overcome adversity.
Historical past repeats itself. And, dangerous instances are nearly at all times adopted by good ones. Very like the Roaring Twenties, folks must socialize. They need to rejoice. The important thing will probably be selling eating places, arts and tradition, and variety and inclusion utilizing expertise and communication like by no means earlier than.
To help our inns, we’ve acquired to promote our vacation spot in a different way with digital excursions by means of Montco 360, revamp the #MakeItMontco Expertise, and supply instruments to planners with Montco Wellness for Occasions.
The one method ahead for our business is to return collectively, and rise above. To advocate for our members, companions and neighborhood as greatest we will to reinvigorate a powerful financial affect that advantages jobs, and all the area.
As a result of we imagine on this vacation spot. And, we’re not giving up.
Josh Maxwell, Chester County Commissioner
2020 was a yr like no different for Chester County companies. They confronted shutdowns, severely decreased income, and struggled to satisfy the altering wants of their staff. As a county we labored laborious to help our companies, launching the Restore Chester County initiative offering companies with sources and instruments to assist them navigate the brand new COVID world. Working aspect by aspect with native Chambers of Commerce, companies acquired help in safely re-opening, steering on how one can energize their enterprise, and assistance on steps they may take to construct client confidence. We provided two rounds of Most important Avenue Preservation grants totaling $15 million — the second spherical of grantees will probably be introduced in January — and we labored to advertise security pointers by means of our “Easy Ask, Put on a Masks” marketing campaign. With a vaccine already arriving in Chester County for our healthcare employees, our distribution plans in place, and the creativity and dedication of our native companies, one can’t assist however be optimistic for the way forward for enterprise in Chester County.
Eric Goldstein, Government Director of King of Prussia District
This previous yr was in contrast to something most of us have witnessed in our lifetimes. The impacts of COVID-19 are widespread, and the fallout of the well being and financial toll could also be with us for quite a lot of years, even with the promise of a vaccine. It was unusual to see so most of the usually bustling workplace complexes practically empty. The short-term closure of retail, eating places and leisure venues sapped a substantial quantity of life from the neighborhood. However, whereas so many companies have been disproportionately affected, akin to inns and eating places, there have been quite a lot of brilliant spots as enterprise house owners confirmed great resiliency, creativity and perseverance.
In King of Prussia, the financial progress of the previous decade was significantly fruitful because the extra diversified enterprise neighborhood was capable of do a greater job weathering the storm. Elevated manufacturing and distribution corporations, in addition to a major uptick in healthcare and life sciences, paid dividends by way of preserving jobs and retaining the KOP economic system afloat. The style wherein the KOP neighborhood got here collectively to help each other, the multitude of tales of huge and small companies that successfully pivoted to protect their buyer base, and the general pleasure we have now witnessed in the neighborhood, make us terribly optimistic in regards to the post-COVID future for King of Prussia.
Sherwood Robbins, Managing Director of Seedcopa
It has been a rare yr for small- to mid-sized companies with regards to financing by means of partially government-guaranteed loans. SBA 504 mortgage quantity soared to the very best in its 34-year historical past, as rates of interest continued to dip to file lows. We noticed this pattern nationally, but additionally regionally, as Seedcopa labored with new (and extra) financial institution companions than we have been one yr in the past on SBA 504 loans.
Whereas the low rates of interest have been little question an element, it’s the construction of the SBA 504 mortgage that appears to be particularly interesting to extra enterprise house owners proper now. Coupling much less cash out of pocket with long-term, fastened rates of interest gives the borrower with confidence of secure mortgage funds for years to return. By retaining precious capital inside the enterprise, house owners can use that cash to do what they do greatest — develop their companies. That is important to small companies throughout the COVID-19 disaster and transferring ahead.
What must occur to show 2021 round? As a director of the Nationwide Affiliation of Growth Corporations, the place I signify Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and D.C., I see the potential for progress and success twofold. First, we have now been capable of work with quite a lot of companies that pivoted inside their enterprise fashions. Many homeowners who have been capable of develop a brand new vertical line of enterprise, or transition their merchandise/companies, have truly had a slightly profitable 2020. Second — is to stabilize COVID-19 and the economic system that has developed because of it, so our nation can get again to both “regular” or the “new regular.” This idea could sound apparent, however clearly we’re not there but.
All the Seedcopa crew respects how necessary small enterprise is to our nation. We’re able to proceed to serve these small companies with the financing they want and look ahead to a contented, wholesome and sure, affluent New 12 months.