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Lancaster Chamber CEO addresses business concerns in latest letter

Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry. FILE

Tom Baldrige, president and CEO of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce and Industry, spoke to Lancaster’s business community about best practices moving forward and the importance of self care during these difficult times:
Exhale.

That’s my primary message as we enter Week Three of the challenges brought on by the coronavirus.

The first reason for encouraging “Exhale” is for your own personal health.  Try to relax; try to get some exercise; try to make sure you are making time for things you enjoy; and try to get sufficient sleep.  Your personal mental and physical health is STEP ONE in dealing with this crisis. Consider it the real-time equivalent of putting your own air mask on first when the airplane’s cabin gets depressurized. Take care of yourself, so you can take care of others.

The second reason for encouraging “Exhale” is for your business’ plan forward.  The pressures on employers –large and small—are overwhelming right now. Some of you are in crisis mode; some of you are fast-tracking opportunities; and all of you are likely feeling bombarded and confused by the full and growing menu of new programs and government help.

Over the past few weeks the Chamber and our partners at the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County have been hearing from many of you.  It’s been our pleasure to assist.

And, as an additional way to assist, we’re offering best practices for a FINANCIAL PATH FORWARD, based on all the inquiries we’ve received and the experiences we’ve witnessed.  So, before you panic, before you feel overwhelmed trying to sort out all the programs, or, worse, before you throw in the towel, here’s a practical check-list designed to guide the way:

  1. Self-Assess. Commit to putting your current financial situation to paper.  Gather all the documents that you think would be necessary for any further discussions.  And determine your priorities based on your unique situation. To the degree possible, I would also encourage you to engage your accountant’s and/or attorney’s help with this process, as well. The Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs), SCORE and ASSETS are also equipped to provide assistance.

  2. Contact your bank/lender.  Review your situation with your banker, with all necessary documents-in-hand.  Many banks are already offering payment deferrals and other assistance programs for their customers.  Additionally, banks are well-connected and well-informed on many of the state and federal programs that have emerged over the past weeks and, at a minimum, can point you in the right direction.

  3. Contact your landlord, utility companies, IT/telecom provider, internet service, credit card provider – Don’t automatically assume you have bills due in the coming days. We’ve heard many stories of companies working with tenants and businesses to help you handle the crisis. It helps to ask questions and find out your options.

  4. Prioritize Loan/Grant Programs, as feasible, and Apply.  Using all the information gathered above, evaluate the emerging and evolving relief program/programs that may work best for you and, if you believe you meet the eligibility, prepare an application.  It’s important to note that banks/lending institutions will be playing a key role in helping to administer some of the federal relief. It is increasingly important to note that most federal and state loan applications require time, energy and focused effort to complete, and importantly complete accurately and fully. The volume for programs open today and those anticipated to open in the near future (such as the federal stimulus aid known as the CARES Act) will be very high. Incomplete applications will only delay your process and possibly lead to your denial. Take advantage of the resources available to assist you with your loan applications, such as the Small Business Administration offers daily webinars from 12 noon – 1:30 and subscribe to their email updates via www.SBA.gov/Updates.

  5. Stay Current.  Continue to visit the Chamber’s website for the most current information.  We are continually updating our site and dating our information as a means of helping you navigate the most recent developments.  Additionally, please keep an eye out for future emails from the Chamber, as we will continue to bring this information to your attention.

Now, I fully realize that the above guidelines do not address all your concerns.  Many of you are wrestling with lay-offs/furloughs, shut-down orders (and waiver applications), managing remote work efficiently and many other disruptions that are unique to the current time. Guidance for all of that exists on our website, as well, and we continue to offer webinars to help you navigate some of those challenges.

To that end, upcoming webinars include:

*Remote Work Webinar Series: Cybersecurity at Home
When: April 1 from 1:30-2:30pm

*Remote Work Webinar Series: How Do I Work From Home?
When: April 2 from 11am-Noon

*Ask The Accountant Webinar
When: April 2 from 3-4pm

*County Emergency Preparedness & Enforcement
When: April 3 from 1:30-2:30pm

*Value Add & Cost Savings Programs from the Lancaster Chamber Webinar
When: April 6 from 1:30-2:30pm

Register for all webinars online here.

Finally, I want to reiterate a consistent plea I have made in past emails: THINK LOCAL! As you explore your options for business success, as you assess supply chains and disruption and even as your consider opportunities for your own personal expenditures, please make local products and services your priority!

And, remember, through it all take time to exhale.  It’s what’s best for you, your business and our community.

With Encouragement,

Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber

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