As California Nears One-Year Mark Since First Statewide Stay-At Home Order, Metro Chamber Reflects on the Impact of Past Year & Recovery Efforts Ahead
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – As California quickly approaches the one-year mark since Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order on March 19, 2020 to flatten the curve and reduce the spread of COVID-19, the Sacramento Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (Metro Chamber) reflects on a number of important actions taken over the past year to provide much-needed support to the Capital Region business community.
“This past year has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging experiences our Capital Region has ever endured, especially for our businesses,” said Amanda Blackwood, President and CEO of the Metro Chamber. “But as we look back, the business community has pulled together like never before by tapping into or creating new strategic partnerships and identifying and implementing tools to innovate that they never dreamed possible; all to recover as a stronger, more connected, inclusive, and resilient region.
It is important to recognize the immense impact of the Capital Region Small Business Development Center – both in providing technical assistance and funding. We are humbled by this work and inspired by our Members that continue to find opportunities to operate and grow, despite the challenges they face. We know from the Metro Chamber’s 126-year history that this is not our first pandemic, nor our last, but it is through these volatile times that we become stronger as a community and as a result recover quicker and more resilient as we move towards reopening.”
In addition to establishing ongoing access and coordination between federal, state, and local officials to ensure real-time updates to our small businesses and community partners about topics related to their business operations (including a current focus on vaccine availability with Sacramento County health officials), the Metro Chamber has supported the regional business community over the past year through the following impact areas:
- Established One-Stop Resource via Rapid Response Hub Website – In response to a massive volume of complex and changing information being released on a sometimes daily or even hourly basis (especially in the early days of the statewide shutdown when it was hard to find info and resources in one place), the Rapid Response Hub was launched as a one-stop-shop resource to help regional businesses quickly find needed information – ranging from the most current public health orders to access to capital to info on unemployment and vaccination information – to navigate an extremely challenging and volatile time. Since the site launched in March 2020, 14,853 sessions have been initiated by more than 10,243 unique users to date (the website remains active and is updated regularly).
- Provided One-on-One Assistance via Business Triage Hotline – To assist with the huge volume of pressing questions from local businesses owners, the Metro Chamber and Sacramento Asian Pacific Chamber teamed up to establish a business triage hotline to provide person-to-person on-demand navigational support and free technical assistance via phone. The hotline went live on April 15 with assistance provided in four languages (English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and Mandarin). Since the hotline’s inception in April (which was active through August), the team of advisors fielded several hundred calls on topics such as navigating disaster funding opportunities, recalling, and hiring of employees, accessing general and pandemic unemployment assistance, reopening business safely and available community resources. Assistance was provided to a variety of businesses including those who were self-employed, sole proprietors, independent contractors, and LLCs. The business sizes ranged from owner-operator to 60+ employees, based mainly in the following cities: Sacramento, Elk Grove, Folsom, Rancho Cordova, Lodi, Vacaville, Stockton, Woodland, Davis, Yuba City and Citrus Heights. To date, the services helped those businesses with required steps to receive nearly $2.9 million in disaster loans (PPP, EIDL, and other local/city relief funds).
- Advocated for Access to Capital/CARES Act and Federal Fund Allocation – Sacramento businesses were some of the first in the nation to receive emergency funds, even before the CARES Act, by supporting our state and federal officials in declaring a local emergency. The Metro Chamber also worked closely with the city of Sacramento and through a coalition of city PBIDs and chambers to secure more than $21M of the $89M in the city’s CARES fund allocation for small business forgivable loans and technical assistance. Through those efforts, more than 1,400 businesses received forgivable loans, and more importantly, received free technical assistance through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to help them create business plans to successfully pivot. After the city of Sacramento announced in early February it would be streamlining the process with some requirements no longer being necessary, the SBDC continues to support the loan recipients in understanding the changes and requirements of the new forgiveness process.
- Technical Assistance Workshops – The SBDC has continued presenting technically-focused workshops during the pandemic but moved to a virtual platform to connect with small business owners looking for ways to navigate and position their businesses for future success. In the last six months alone, the SBDC presented 34 workshops covering 13 different topics, a few of which include the following: SBDC Resources To Help Your Business Rebound and How To Pivot Your Business, Your Journey As An Entrepreneur, and Break Even & Beyond.
- Launched #All4Small – To amplify the significant contributions small businesses provide to the region’s economy, the Metro Chamber partnered with talented local artists Chelsea-Mari Swain and Brandon Gastinell to design artwork for limited edition specialty merchandise as part of a new #All4Small fundraising initiative presented by Kaiser Permanente. The new program utilizes an innovative online marketplace by One City Market, a local company committed to connecting and developing local retail communities. To date through sponsorship and merchandise sales, more than $40K has been generated from the #All4Small initiative that is fueling efforts to provide free, one-on-one technical assistance and consulting services to uplift the region’s small business owners. And, because of the alignment with the Chamber on the #All4Small project, local artist Brandon Gastinell was extended an opportunity to have his work displayed in the Sacramento County’s building for a curated exhibition titled “New Migration: Forward Together,” an ongoing activation that highlights artists of color to inspire positive change in the community. The piece Gastinell contributed to the show is titled “Handle With Care” and is currently on display. Local artist Chelsea-Mari Swain also noticed an uptick in commissions and the #All4Small project really encouraged her to keep moving forward with her art. She was inspired by the rally of resources and how the community united to support small business owners such as herself.
- Presented All-Virtual 126th Annual Business Awards – For the first time in the 126 year history of this prestigious awards event, the Metro Chamber proudly presented an all-virtual award program experience on a new interactive platform called Remo. With 400+ registered attendees, the virtual program offered a unique opportunity that enabled the regional business community to come together virtually to experience the uplifting program while also network with others all while showcasing the admirable award winners in special ways. The Metro Chamber was especially proud to recognize Savory Café as Small Business of the Year. In addition, a new Lifetime Achievement Award was created to honor the memory of PRIDE Industries CEO Michael Ziegler for his visionary leadership, service to the community, and lasting impacts to the region. This new award category will continue to be offered in future years when other deserving recipients are identified. View the key components and Awardees of the Annual Business Awards.
- Committed to Diversity & Equity in Business – Just as COVID-19 has been an accelerator for change in many of our business models, so has the international call-to-action for social justice and equity. Data has long demonstrated that businesses with diversity and equity in their leadership and workforce are more resilient and profitable. The direct and much-needed conversations taking place on social justice have also identified how racism exists in institutions and implicit bias impacts hiring. The Metro Chamber in its role in The Prosperity Partnership and creation of “Our Path Forward: The Prosperity Plan” has made it a priority to create a more inclusive and equitable economy for our communities and businesses as well as holding the organization accountable via a “Commitment to Change.” The Metro Chamber established a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging taskforce to focus distinctly on educational opportunity and governance structure and operating principles. Additionally, the Chamber has entered a strategic partnership with SAFE Credit Union and Emtrain to develop a regional survey that embeds dialog based research tools to foster a workplace culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging. The Metro Chamber Foundation named Improve Your Tomorrow as the grant recipient for its 11th annual Inspire Giving program. Improve Your Tomorrow is a nonprofit created to break the school to prison pipeline by helping young men of color through college.
“While we are incredibly proud of the actions that have been taken to support the regional business community, we are also just getting started,” added Blackwood. “Collectively, we need to do everything we can to support businesses large and small by identifying ways to reopen safely and strategically, ensuring business owners have access to accurate testing and vaccination information, advocating for access to capital, reducing barriers to operate, and incorporating key learnings and innovations. The time is now to reimagine and build a better, stronger, and more diverse business environment that is resilient to whatever the future may hold.”