Businesses are the heartbeat of Central
Delaware. Supporting the business community is imperative in a place like
this. Encouraging business owners and
shopping locally must always be a high priority. Finding ways to ensure the health and well-being
of businesses results in finding ways to ensure the health and well-being of
the entire region - a region comprised of family members, neighbors, and
friends. For residents of Central Delaware, maintaining the healthy heartbeat
of business is personal.
That is why the Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce (CDCC) is pleased to serve as THE essential resource for the development of businesses in Central Delaware, doing whatever it takes to assist them as they grow – because, after all, their growth is imperative to the growth of Delaware’s economy. The CDCC is a hub for information, a resource for educational, networking, and marketing opportunities, and an advocate for the business community legislatively. The CDCC is all about making connections that will provide the resources needed for businesses to grow and thrive.
In March of this year, as COVID-19 began to ravage the country, Delaware was not exempt from its affects. Late that month, the Governor called for all citizens to shelter in place, virtually creating a complete shutdown. People were in lock down, cars were not on the roads, supplies became scarce, and businesses closed… for how long no one knew. More than four months later, the situation has changed little and thousands upon thousands of dollars are disappearing every single day from our business community – which translates into thousands of dollars disappearing from the pockets of all us and our families and friends. This loss of revenue is not just corporate – for Central Delawareans, it’s deeply personal. As the tenuous loosening of restrictions allows businesses to slowly inch their way back to recovery, some are opening, some are waiting to open, and many are wondering if they will ever open again.
Throughout the pandemic, the CDCC has remained in touch with its approximately 850 members. The CDCC has worked hard to connect members with the information they so desperately need to keep their businesses alive. The staff is listening, learning, brainstorming, advising, encouraging and remaining consistent in its support of its members at a time that seems dangerously discouraging and inconsistent. A large percentage of the CDCC’s memberships is comprised of small businesses with just 50 or fewer employees. They are leaning on the CDCC and counting on the chamber to assist them with marketing, networking, and finding the resources they need to keep going.
Much like many of its member businesses, the CDCC and many other small-town chambers, have not sailed through the pandemic unscathed. The CDCC is largely an event-driven organization. Large gatherings and activities generate a generous portion of the chamber’s income. Stay-at-home orders and event restrictions have wreaked havoc on the schedule… and the budget for the year. In spite of the availability of payment plans and extended deadlines, some members have indicated that they can no longer afford to pay their annual dues and some have discontinued their sponsorships.
If local chambers begin to struggle and
risk failure, small businesses across the entire country will struggle as a
result. In a recent study, an
Atlanta-based consulting firm, the Shapiro Group uncovered some telling
statistics about the value of chambers of commerce. They noted in their study that chamber membership
increases consumer awareness by 73%. They also reported that the likelihood of a consumer choosing to do
business with a company increases by 80% if that consumer knows the company
belongs to a chamber. The findings are
clear: the credibility provided by chamber membership helps businesses remain
The Central Delaware Chamber of Commerce
plans to continue to rework its event schedule and explore other ways of
connecting with members. The CDCC
intends to continue to serve as the essential resource for the development for
businesses in Central Delaware. CDCC
members are relying on the fact that their memberships will assist them in
getting back to business as usual. The
CDCC will do whatever it takes to fight for the business community and protect
its rights, but continued funding is needed.
Federal COVID-19 relief efforts that have greatly assisted residents and other businesses as they have navigated the murky waters of the pandemic have not, in general, been helpful to chambers of commerce. While many nonprofits have received help from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), chambers are not eligible to receive funding from the federal government’s forgivable loan program because of their 501(c)(6) tax designation. These ineligible chambers are hopeful that some provision will be made for them as Congress works to create an upcoming Phase 4 COVID-19 relief bill.
Efforts have been underway to
continuously bring this issue to lawmakers. A certain reluctance to include 501(c)(6) organizations stems from the
fact that other, much larger, organizations (like professional football
leagues) share this designation. Some
have suggested that placing certain restrictions on loans (such as size of
recipients) could narrow the field enough that the lending would not become
damaging or unwieldy.
To ensure that the Central Delaware community continues to thrive and to assist the CDCC in supporting local business, consider contacting your congressmen on behalf of the chamber and urge them to help. Find ways to speak well of your chamber and the services they provide. Consider making a contribution to support the CDCC. In the quest to keep businesses in business, make it personal. Together we will keep going – together we will find strength. That is, after all, how things are done here in the First State.