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Help For Businesses

These have been tough times for our community’s small businesses. Rapidly changing government edicts, limits on business capacity, and even openings, and a public nervous about being out being around other people have left many scambling for answers. We spoke to North Brusnwick Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Dana Fisher about how she’s trying to help.

When did you take over leadership of the North Brunswick Chamber?

March 18, 2010

Are you getting used to being in recovery from emergency mode?

I still feel like I am in recovery/emergency mode. When the Chamber can return to having in-person business events, then my life will be back to normal. It is very hard to promote the area businesses when we are not having networking events. The Chamber is here to help grow the economy in our area and create a prosperous business environment.

How does dealing with COVID compare to past efforts, like the recovery from Hurricane Florence, for example?

After Florence our office was closed for over a week. Power was out at first, then carpeting was wet and needed to dry out, etc. When other businesses started to reopen things got back to normal quickly. As a community, we were all pulling together to help the ones who were devastated by Florence. We were having fundraisers for Brunswick Family Assistance.

Fast forward to March 2020 and the nightmare begins! The State starts to shut down. We thought originally that this would last a couple of months, but here we are over five months later still in partial shutdown mode.

Here’s a summary of what we’ve been dealing with:

March 14 Executive Order 117: Shuts down K-12 schools across the state and bans mass gatherings of more than 100 people.

March 17 Executive Order 118: Suspends dining in at restaurants and bars.

March 23 Executive Order 120: Extends K-12 school closings until May 15. Also orders gyms, salons, barber shops and theaters to close. Mass gatherings limited to 50 people.

March 27 Executive Order 121: Announces a statewide stay-at-home order will go into effect March 30 at 5 p.m. until April 29. Stay home except to go to essential businesses, exercise outdoors or help a family member. Gatherings up to 10 people permitted. Stay apart 6 feet.

April 23 Executive Order Executive Order 135: Extends until May 8, North Carolina’s Stay At Home (Executive Order 121) as well as other orders regarding the closures of restaurants for dine-in service, bars and other close-contact businesses

May 8 Executive Order 138 Allows some businesses to reopen at limited capacity. Restaurants – no dine in. Many businesses not allowed to reopen

May 20 Executive Order 141 Lifts the statewide Stay at Home Order and moves the state to a Safer At Home recommendation.

June 24 Executive Order 147 Extends Executive Order 141’s Safer At Home restrictions and requires people, with some exceptions, to wear face coverings in public when social distancing is not possible.

July 16 Executive Order 151 Extends Executive Order 141’s Safer At Home Phase 2 measures until at least Aug. 7, 2020.

August 5 Executive Order 155 Extends Executive Order 141’s Safer At Home Phase 2 measures until at least Sept. 11, 2020.

I could go on and on with all the executive orders, but bottom line, the Chamber is limited to what it can and cannot do. Inside, limit to 10 people; outside, limit to 25 people, so with those rules in place we find it hard to do ribbon cuttings, business after hours and hold our events.

What do you see as the major challenges for your member businesses?

The businesses that are allowed to reopen need to be able to operate at full capacity. I still have some businesses that have not reopened and they are hurting!

What programs has the Chamber offered to help? What is still ongoing?

The Chamber has provided its members with SBA loan information, PPP loan information and North Carolina Job Retention Grant (JRG) information.

For businesses that did reopen, we furnished an online guide on how to reopen safely.

Any information that we receive that can help our members we forward to them.

We have switched our Power Connections to virtual (the second and fourth Wednesday of each month).

The restrictions on gatherings have played havoc with many plans. What is the status of some of your annual events?

Kids Expo (May) – postponed until May 2021

Sports Raffle (May) – virtual drawings were held on August 15.

Annual Awards Banquet (June) – postponed until June 2021. The awards were given out at ATMC – Brunswick Forest via Facebook live.

Ladies Night Out Purse Event – will be held virtually in December

Bikes Brews & BBQ (October) – postponed until October 2021

Veterans Day Breakfast (November) – postponed until November 2021

The only events that are still on hold that could possibly take place this year if the Governor eases restrictions are:

Business Expo and Leland Under the Lights Car Show.

Can you speak to your sense of the support of the community for local businesses this year?

Most of our community has supported the restaurants through take-out orders. The retail home improvement companies should have seen a very good flow in business. People that had to stay at home have done a lot of home improvements. It is our small retail shops that have seen a big decrease. People are not shopping like they used to because of the lack of events, whether it be weddings, graduations, work events and chamber events.

What are your plans for the post-pandemic future?

Visit all of our members and seeing how we can help them, see what resources they may need.

We are doing member spotlights and starting to do videos again promoting their business.

When I started this job in 2010, we were in a recession that we finally climbed out of. It took about two years to do that. Then Florence hit and we overcame that hurdle. This pandemic has been one of the hardest to overcome and try to see the light at the end of the tunnel. This year was going to be a great year for the Chamber — 2020 has truly been a humbling year, trying year, and completely exhausting year all rolled into one. But I always have to remember “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” – Henry Ford

I have an excellent Board with wonderful ideas on how to help our area businesses. I just have to remember the quote from Theodore Roosevelt, “The best executive (director) is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he (she) wants them to do, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.”

The North Brunswick Chamber is here to help!


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