Chamber News

September 03, 2020 Likes Comments

The next 'pandemic purchase'

I goofed yesterday when I provided the incorrect deadline for nominations for our 50 Most Influential Business People of Color in Greater Boston’s western suburbs list.

But that just gives me an opportunity to remind you again today!
The deadline is Sept. 4. As in TOMORROW.
Our goal is to showcase the individuals and employers who are making a positive contribution to the economic and social fabric of our west suburban businesses and nonprofits.
We also want it to be a way to start a conversation about where we fall short and how we can do even better.

Please nominate colleagues within your own organization as well as others you’re familiar with. And while we certainly want to recognize the outstanding Black individuals in our business and nonprofit community, please don’t forget to nominate Asians, Latinos, Middle Easterners, Native Americans and other individuals of color that you admire too.
To qualify, nominees must work and/or sit on a board for a business or nonprofit that is physically located in Newton, Needham, Watertown, Waltham, Wellesley, Natick or Framingham. (Yes, self nominations are welcome!)
And here’s how you can demonstrate your company’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by joining as a sponsor.
Did I mention that the deadline is tomorrow?
Six months…and then six more months
The goal of the Paycheck Protection Program was to help businesses make ends meet until the economy recovers.
And many business owners and nonprofit directors who are reading this today will tell you that the federal stimulus program did just that.
Problems is, the PPP was only supposed to help employers make ends meet for a few months; buying us all time to get the virus in check and devise a plan for the next phase of a recovery. That never happened. And as Congress prepares to return from recess next week, we’re no closer to a new relief package.
Meanwhile, business owners are more pessimistic.
In late April one out of three businesses said they expected it would take more than six months to return to pre-COVID days. Four months later, that’s grown to nearly half of all businesses who believe it will be another “six months or more,” according to the latest Census survey.
Close to ten percent of companies don’t expect business to ever return to “normal levels.”
“We’re crawling our way out of a deep hole, and we run the risk of falling back in because of policy,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics tells Politico. “The bridge that Congress and the administration put in at the start at the pandemic isn’t long enough to get to the end of it.”
And the PPP's bad apples
Yes, the PPP helped keep more than five million small businesses nationwide afloat by providing $525 billion in mostly forgivable loans during the early months of the pandemic. It was a messy roll out, but as I said it really helped.
But a Congressional oversight committee concluded in a report this week, that about 10,000 of the loans -- totaling more than $1 billion -- went to companies that received more than one PPP loan, a violation of the program.
Another 600 loans (about $96 million) that went to companies that have been "debarred or suspended" from receiving federal contracts and more than 11,000 loans totaling (about $3 billion) given to companies that did not include complete information on their applications. (USA Today story here).
Lawn returned to Beacon Hill
A Newton City Councilor’s attempt to unseat an incumbent state rep covering parts of Newton, Watertown and Waltham, was not successful Tuesday.
Councilor Alison Leary received more votes in Newton and Waltham but incumbent state Rep. John Lawn’s massive win in his hometown of Watertown gave him the win in the 10th Middlesex District, WickedLocal Reports.
Steve Owens, former chair of Watertown’s Democratic Town Committee is the newly elected state representative for the 29th Middlesex seat.
And, yes, we still don't know the results of the 4th Congressional District Democratic primary.
Marijuana shop to present plan
Also in Watertown: Sira Naturals (a chamber member), which operates Needham’s only medical marijuana dispensary is looking to open a medical/recreational shop at 48 North Beacon Street. They’ll be presenting plans at a virtual meeting on Sept. 10 at 7 pm. Details here. The presentation can be viewed in advance here.
Meanwhile in Wellesley
The town is taking a get tough stand on idle behavior.
Alfresco keep many restaurants afloat
Outdoor dining has become an important part of the restaurant industry ability to make ends meet this summer.
How important? Federal Reserve Bank analysts say alfresco dining represented more than one third of all sales, which it said "is unusual in Massachusetts where fewer than 20 percent of restaurants had outdoor dining options before the pandemic."
Restaurants in coastal areas operated at roughly 75 percent of typical sales on average through the summer months, the Fed said. But restaurants in Greater Boston are "faring worse than the rest of the state," according to State House News.
The next ‘pandemic purchase’
As the weather gets colder, many restaurateurs with outdoor setups are hoping to extend the season by investing in heat lamps.
But just as plexiglass was in short supply a few months ago, there’s now fears of an outdoor heater shortage.
Sure enough outdoor heaters are the next “pandemic purchase” and “they’re starting to disappear,” the Globe reports.
Andy Starr, of restaurant supplier Boston Showcase Company (a chamber member located in Newton) which has had clients such as Davio’s, Grill 23 & Bar, and Uni, told the Globe that in normal times the company wouldn’t keep a surplus of patio heaters in stock.
But because of the pandemic, the 107-year-old family business brought in a supply to have them on hand.
“With a normal product that we carry, they’d run out and we’d order more,” he said. “But with the two particular models that we brought in, there is nothing to re-order.”
Local fire codes and possible permitting requirements are causing confusion for Newton restaurateurs as they wait for City Hall to tell them what’s allowed and what’s not, while hoping Starr’s and other suppliers’ stock don’t run out first.

Be back tomorrow. Until then, don’t forget to submit those nominations!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
P.S. A reminder that the chamber’s office on Needham Street is closed. Our new mailing address is PO Box 590132, Newton Centre, MA 02459. We’ll primarily be working virtually for the rest of 2020. But we’ve opened a satellite office at Staples Connect at 163 Highland Ave, Needham. by appointment only.


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