"The Dedham Women’s Exchange has certainly entered a new era. On-line shopping and a positive presence on social media are so important in this day and age! It is very exciting to hear the daily “analytics” reports from our on-line team and to see that we have actually had on-line sales!"
This is from an email I received from Robyn Garth, President of the Dedham Women's Exchange last month. The Dedham Exchange is an artisan gift shop offering unique gift ideas for every occasion. From handmade, one-of-a-kind children’s items to beautiful home décor.
She was writing because the Exchange's new website recently went live with an online sales feature. The website was the work of Kerry Aglugub, KMA Web Design and Tricia White, T. White Creations. The Chamber was able to hire this dynamic duo thanks to funding received in a grant from the Mass. Office of Business Development.
The Exchange was one of 6 small businesses to receive the web development and social media marketing technical assistance provided by the Chamber. These businesses were selected back in June after participating in a 3-part online marketing webinar series taught by Kerry and Tricia. The webinar series provided much needed training to dozens of small businesses who were struggling due to the pandemic, throughout the region.
The Chamber is pleased to have been able to act as a conduit to providing direct assistance to businesses in need with the assistance of our partners.
Check out the new websites of the 6 selected businesses.
The Dedham Exchange Vico Ristorante Italiano
Cheff'n & Eetinn Norwood Space Center
Vera SkinCare Got Styles Hair Salon
Tom O'Rourke, President and CEO
(Last week chambers of of commerce around the country commemorated "Support Your Local Chamber Day". Here's a piece from the U.S. Chamber reminding us why your support is so important.)
Local Chambers of Commerce are our nation’s strongest small business advocates, providing a voice for thousands of communities across America. When businesses succeed, communities succeed, and local chambers are there every step of the way empowering businesses to grow and thrive even in the most challenging of circumstances. That’s why the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is proud to celebrate “Support Your Local Chamber Day” on October 20th.
Over the course of the last year, local chambers, with support from the U.S. Chamber, led the way in helping small businesses safely reopen and put them on a path to recover from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. To celebrate and highlight their efforts, here are three ways you can support your local chamber:
1. Support Other Chamber Businesses
Each local chamber of commerce website contains a directory making it easy to find businesses in your community. Supporting these businesses not only boosts the local economy but also fosters deeper community involvement.
2. Encourage Other Businesses to Join
Consumers know that businesses that are chamber of commerce members can be trusted to care about their customers and their communities. Becoming a chamber of commerce member means your business is backed by the knowledge and experience that only the U.S. Chamber of Commerce network can bring with its over 100 years at the forefront of the business community.
3. Follow Your Chamber on Social Media
If you haven’t already, follow your local chamber on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Let's Get (Re) Engaged
The crisp autumn air has returned, the Red Sox are making a late playoff run (or is it a collapse?) and the Patriots are preparing to welcome back their old tight end and quarterback.
We know that the Delta variant is still causing pandemic concern, but isn't time to re-engage?
It was great to see thousands of people out and about at Norwood Day recently. I know that Westwood Day and Dedham Day had similar success. I'm sure Sharon Day will be no different on Sunday.
We are pleased to welcome back many of our members whom we haven't seen in many months. Our next two events will be held outdoors to ease the concerns of those not ready for indoor events.
We hope that you will make the time to join us next Thursday at our Wine Tasting at Debevino in Walpole. Locally made wine, apps and some inspiration as well!
Our next Noon Networking will take place at the outdoor courtyard at our world headquarters at the Norwood Space Center on October 12.
Later in the month on October 23 we move indoors for a night of bowling, drinks, apps and networking at Splitsville Lanes at Patriot Place.
Then we kickoff November with the fastest event of the year: ChamberTalks. You will hear 7 talks by 7 speakers on 7 different topics, all in 7 minute intervals. Enjoy the luxurious new seating at the Showcase Cinema at Legacy Place (with complimentary popcorn and water of course) to enjoy the presentations. Following the talks, we will head out to the main lobby by the bar for cocktails and hors d' ouevres and an opportunity to meet the speakers, ask questions and network with others.
Sign up for any of these by clicking here.
President and CEO
With the return of in-person meetings, we are excited to announce our second annual "ChamberTalks 7x7" event on September 23.
ChamberTalks is a fast-paced round of 7 talks by 7 speakers on 7 different topics. Loosely modeled on the popular TED Talks, the program will inform, inspire and educate you on a variety of subjects of local interest.
Guests will be seated in the luxurious new seating at the Showcase Cinema at Legacy Place (with complimentary popcorn and water of course) to enjoy the presentations. Following the talks, we will head out to the main lobby by the bar for cocktails and hors d' ouevres. At this point you will have the opportunity meet the speakers, ask questions and network with others.
As an added treat, we will have our own member, Dennis Blanchard from Eventful Magic, on hand to amaze and mystify you with feats of magic.
Here are the topics our speakers will be sharing:
To learn more about the program and our presenters, click here.
We look forward to seeing you there!
President and CEO
We are including below a copy of Jon Hurst's op/ed piece which recently ran in The Boston Globe, because we believe it presents a well thought out argument on behalf of employers like you. Jon is the President of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM).
Beacon Hill should follow other states and devote federal COVID-19 relief funds to bring down the debt from the cost of layoffs from the pandemic.
By Jon B. Hurst, RAM President
Massachusetts employers were recently handed their revised unemployment insurance tax bills for 2021. These lower bills are the result of new legislation that has been marketed as a fix for the unemployment insurance crisis. It authorizes the state to borrow $7 billion to shore up what would have been an insolvent unemployment insurance fund to pay back federal loans and interest on those loans. For many businesses, their revised tax bills dropped dramatically from what was first sent to them in April. The catch? Employers must pay it back. While the reduction in payments is welcome, employers have been handed an unprecedented tax increase for the $7 billion COVID-19 unemployment tab, which is now being amortized over 20 years rather than just two years.
This is hardly a fair fix. What employers need from Beacon Hill is for government to step up with true shared responsibility by significantly reducing the overall unemployment insurance debt. The Legislature can do this by using a portion of the $5 billion in federal COVID relief funds under its control to make a fair down payment to mitigate the unprecedented tax increase for COVID layoff costs, which were triggered by public policy and government administration as a result of the pandemic.
The current legislative “fix” to the unemployment insurance system is a tax on employers to amortize over 20 years the massive $7 billion in COVID claims paid out during the pandemic. Through state bonding, the $7 billion — plus interest — is being spread out, but current and future employers are still being asked to pick up the entire tab for the claims, fraud, and interest charges.
The delayed tax increase on employers will most certainly suppress future wage and job growth in the Commonwealth by making it more expensive to run a business here. By mortgaging the entire debt, Beacon Hill has yet to do what more than half of the states have done — devote federal COVID relief funds to bring down the debt and relieve employers from significant portions of the cost of the layoffs from the pandemic. Furthermore, some states — such as Connecticut — have also recently reformed their unemployment insurance systems, including freezing benefit increases for multiple years to create economic balance in the future, but Massachusetts has yet to freeze benefits.
In recent months, the majority of states have used either CARES Act federal funds or committed to using new American Recovery Plan Act dollars to shore up their unemployment insurance trust funds. Massachusetts has received $5.3 billion in Recovery Plan funds. A significant portion of those funds should be committed now to this crisis to bring down the future borrowing, interest charges, and unprecedented tax increases for employers.
Unlike past recessions, the unemployment insurance claims from COVID were not the fault of employers. Small-business owners did not order the business closures or the workplace and commerce restriction; nor did they prompt school and daycare closures. Employers also didn’t trigger the extra emergency unemployment insurance benefits.
And they certainly didn’t cause the unrecoverable, fraudulent unemployment insurance claims and overpayments. A study by the National Conference of State Legislatures pegged the COVID fraud claims and overpayments nationally at a whopping $63 billion. Using a common economic extrapolation of Massachusetts representing 2.5 percent of national figures (probably conservative in this instance, given the generous nature of the state’s unemployment insurance system), one could assume that the fraud and overpayments portion of the $7 billion COVID unemployment insurance costs could be at least $1.6 billion.
Members of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts understand that legislators are hearing from countless organizations, special interests, and constituent groups seeking a portion of that once-in-a-lifetime kitty of $5.3 billion in federal COVID aid. Congress recognized its shared responsibility in the COVID crisis by appropriating those funds, with an express intended use of state unemployment insurance Trust Fund replenishment. Now Beacon Hill must acknowledge its role in the shutdowns, restrictions, fraud and overpayments, and act as effective stewards of those federal tax dollars by mitigating the $7 billion COVID-related tax increase. The very floor of discussion for the state’s fair share of the COVID unemployment insurance costs should be the $1.6 billion that can be reasonably attributed to fraud and overpayments.
Beacon Hill should prioritize a fair level of public investment into these unemployment insurance COVID claims. Likewise, balanced policy reforms should be considered to close outlier eligibility loopholes — such as joining 49 states in having both a minimum number of weeks of work as well as minimum earnings in order to qualify for benefits — and to prevent future system abuse. In doing so, it would send the right message to small businesses that they are valued and not taken for granted.
Thanks to all who ventured to dine at our local restaurants last month. The first-ever “Regional Restaurant Week” ran from June 7 through June 11 in the towns of Canton, Dedham, Norwood and Westwood. The initiative was made possible in part by a grant received from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) 2021 Regional Pilot program, geared toward helping small businesses recover from COVID.
22 restaurants participated and offered prix-fixe meals to entice diners back to the restaurants. There was lots of action on social media throughout the week to promote the event. We had 5,000 interactions on Facebook (an increase of 2,900%) and 150,000 impressions (an increase of 1,150%). Our website traffic increased 225% leading into Restaurant Week with nearly 90% of the page views going to the Restaurant Week page.
We have many people and groups to thank for making Restaurant Week happen. Our municipal partners in Canton, Dedham, Norwood and Westwood along with the Dedham Square Circle and the Friends of Norwood Center. Graphic design work by Amanda Deiratani, Deiratani Designs, web page development by Kerry Aglugub, KMA Web Design and social media promotion by Diana Bagas, LAUNCH Social Media.
President and CEO
The Neponset River Regional Chamber is pleased to announce that, working with the towns of Canton, Dedham, Norwood and Westwood, the Chamber will run a “Regional Restaurant Week” from June 7 through June 11. The initiative is made possible in part by a grant received from the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) 2021 Regional Pilot program, geared toward helping small businesses recover from COVID.
Make it a point to support our local restaurants by dining out as often as you can during the week, and of course, to continue doing so afterwards.
Visit our “Regional Restaurant Week” webpage at nrrchamber.com. It lists all participating restaurants, their special offers and links to their websites.
A social media campaign will be executed using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Diners are encouraged to post selfies on their social media platforms as they dine out.
Among the restaurants participating are Blue Ribbon BBQ, Casa Loca, Lewis’, C.F. McCarthy’s, Il Massimo, One Bistro and many more.
President and CEO
We are pleased to announce that as part of the 2021 Regional Pilot grant program, the Massachusetts Office of Business Development (MOBD) has awarded a grant to the Neponset River Regional Chamber, in the amount of $95,000 for programs geared toward helping small businesses recover from COVID.
Working with the towns of Canton, Dedham, Norwood and Westwood, the Chamber, will run a “Regional Restaurant Week” from June 7 through June 11.
The purpose of the initiative is to encourage people to begin frequenting local restaurants again, as we head back into better weather and more and more people have been vaccinated.
A dedicated “Regional Restaurant Week” webpage will be built and housed on the NRRC’s website. It will list all participating restaurants, their special offers and links to their websites. Posters and flyers promoting “Restaurant Week” will be created and distributed to participating restaurants so that they can publicize the event to their existing customers.
A social media campaign will be executed using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Diners will be encouraged to post selfies on their social media platforms as they dine out. Local officials will be recruited to do the same. Stay tuned for more details to come.
We will also organize an educational campaign to help local merchants increase their ability to handle online sales and manage their online reputation using Google My Business and other training and tools.
During the COVID-19 related shutdown, many businesses adapted to increase their online presence in order to continue serving customers. Many of the local merchants in our downtown areas lack the capacity or skill set to avail themselves of these necessary changes and continue to struggle. This effort aims to take a targeted approach of reaching out to those who need assistance in bringing their business online or enhancing what they already have. It will also give them the tools to more effectively manage their online reputation.
This will be done through online webinars to the broader community of merchants and then through one-on-one mentoring with contracted consultants, trainers and web designers. Webinar topics will include Google My Business; Using Facebook, Instagram and Twitter; managing online payment portals; Online reservations; and more.
We are excited to have been given this opportunity to promote and assist local businesses and look forward to working with our municipal partners and with The Dedham Square Circle, The Friends of Norwood Center, contracted consultants, web designers, graphic designers and printers, to carry out these initiatives successfully.
President and CEO
Yesterday, the Neponset River Regional Chamber along with statewide and regional business associations from across the Commonwealth have launched the Massachusetts Business Coalition on Skills (MBCS). The new statewide coalition will advocate for policies that develop the skills of our current and future workforce.
The MBCS formed because there are two sides to the skills gap and both can drag job and economic growth. On the employer side, it is difficult to find qualified talent: a 2019 survey by coalition member Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) found that 73% of Massachusetts employers find it “somewhat difficult” or “very difficult” to find people with the right skills to fill open positions. For workers, new skills are the springboard to job opportunities and growth: a 2016 Pew Research Center survey found that 87% of working adults believe developing new skills throughout their work life will be “essential” or “important” to career success.
Over the last year, members of the Coalition’s steering committee researched, discussed, and refined policy proposals to address both the employer and employee side of the skills gap. The recommendations aim to leverage the state’s entire workforce, not just graduates with 4-year degrees, by creating a statewide standard of essential skills, expanding access to career and vocational technical education (CVTE), and incentivizing employers to provide ongoing skills training to employees.
Closing the skills gaps in Massachusetts requires targeted solutions. As part of the coalition’s launch, the MBCS releases its policy agenda aimed at ensuring every resident can acquire the in-demand skills needed to be successful in the workforce. The MBCS’s policy agenda includes the following seven priority areas:
We look forward to working with our partners across the state to advance this agenda and begin to match worker's skills with existing job vacancies.
Tom O'Rourke, CCE
President and CEO
The Chamber is combining physical wellness with financial wellness.
By now you have heard about our new membership offering of 401(k) plans for small business. To help celebrate and promote the program, we are hosting a 4.01k virtual road race on, you guessed it, 4/01. April 1st! And we are not fooling.
To participate in the virtual race, simply sign up on our website here. You can run alone or as a company team. 4.01k is just 2.5 miles, so almost anyone can do it. You run at the time and place of your choosing any time between 4:01 pm on Thursday, 4/1 through 4:01 pm on Saturday, 4/3. Take a selfie of your watch and send us your time. It's that simple.
Not a competitor? No problem, just get out and walk or run at your own pace and send us a selfie anyways. After a long cold winter we could all use it.
Thanks to Norwood Bank's sponsorship we will have t-shirts for all participants and prizes for the winner's.
Our goal is to encourage folks to get out and exercise in a COVID safe manner, have some fun and also to promote our new 401(k) retirement program. You can learn more about this money saving program here.
Tom O'Rourke, CCE
President and CEO