Local Businesses Turn To Regional Partners For Help

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On Wednesday Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, members of his administration and state business leaders on the state’s economic recovery team outlined a $400 million proposal to shore up many aspects of Vermont’s economy.

The proposal, which still requires passage by the Vermont Legislature, would provide a wide variety of grants, loans, and technical assistance to Vermont businesses, farmers, nonprofits and others. Local economic development leaders would play a hand in helping businesses understand and tap into some of the programs, and are, in a way, looking for some help themselves.

“I know there are too many small business owners who are desperate right now. Family businesses that have been around for decades who don’t see a path out of the red. New entrepreneurs who just months ago had so much hope and now face a whole new reality … and employers who care deeply about their employees facing gut wrenching decisions on who gets their hours reduced and who is laid off,” said Scott. “I know you are all scared, sad and probably pretty angry.”

The proposal calls for $310 million in immediate relief for businesses and another $90 million in a second phase that would help businesses thrive as the recovery hopefully takes root.

In order to help business owners navigate the array of offerings, the proposal outlines the creation of a network of recovery guides to provide technical assistance and access to CPAs, consultants, and attorneys to help Vermont businesses work through the process.

“To navigate through all of this we do have our regional network of development corporations, small business development centers as well as additional technical assistance providers that we are going to make available as a result, if the legislature agrees with this proposal,” said Joan Goldstein, Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development. “We would ready to get that level of assistance necessary, it’s not just getting the money to them it’s also making sure they are able to reconfigure and re-imagine their business so they can accommodate the new realities that have taken place post COVID.”

In the Northeast Kingdom, Goldstein specifically referenced Northeastern Vermont Development Association and Northern Community Investment Corporation as local economic development partners that would be good resources for local business owner to turn to for guidance.

“There’s a pretty expansive technical assistance network already in the state and we want to supplement that and bolster that to react and plan for the future of this crisis,” said Goldstein.

David Snedeker, Executive Director of NVDA, said Wednesday his office had been in contact with the administration’s recovery team and anticipated, if the proposal gets passed, that a part of it may be to help bolster local capabilities to aid small businesses through organizations like NVDA, NCIC and local chambers of commerce.

Snedeker said NVDA is ready to help as best it can.

“That’s what we are here for,” said Snedeker, adding “We’ve heard from a lot of businesses we never hear from.”

“We are expecting to get a number of calls,” he said, adding that if the economic recovery package gets passed and once specifics of the proposals get released his office would be more ready to help with some of the programs announced Wednesday.

Speaking of the economic condition of the Northeast Kingdom in general, Snedeker said, “We are a pretty resilient group up here” but acknowledged there are a number of businesses and sectors that are feeling the pain from the last two months. He expects to field calls from retailers going forward and recognized there were significant hits to the hospitality and creative sectors in the region. He also anticipated a number of restaurants would need to adapt to outdoor seating soon.

Snedeker recommended business owners looking for help to reference NVDA’s website, as well as other regional groups like NCIC and the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative and Northeast Kingdom Chamber of Commerce, which were all working to distribute information and guidance on what resources were available.

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