Businesses are re-opening, economic activity is picking up, people are out and about. Yet life is still not the same by any means. We've become accustomed to wearing masks, we carry hand sanitizer everywhere and I have my temperature taken almost every day (it typically runs low at 97.7). Many businesses are still having their employees work from home and others are operating at mandated reduced capacity.
As we continue to move through Phase 3 of the Commonwealth's 4 phase re-opening plan, I thought I would look back at the past 4 months of activity here at the Chamber. For the past 125 years, the Chamber has been here to serve the local business community. Our tagline is "Connections at Work". And while we haven't had any in-person meetings since March, we have continued to provide "Connections at Work".
Here's a quick runddown:
We can tell by the "open rates" and "click throughs" on our emails and the activity on our COVID-19 webpage that our members have accessed and utilized this information. By creating these new "Connections at Work", we hope that we have helped your businesses better manage this crisis and bring your business back to where it once was.
We know that many are still struggling and we will continue to provide you the latest and best information as we have it.
We are here for you. But please know that we need your support now more than ever. Membership dues are our lifeblood and we look forward to your continued support.
Tom O'Rourke, CCE
President and CEO
The Neponset River Regional Chamber is one of more than 500 state and local chambers and national business associations that have joined the Equality of Opportunity Initiative, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Last week we participated in the National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, along with more than 2,500 others who have committed to hosting similar conversations and taking action in their own communities and industries to address inequality of opportunity across America. The National Summit brought together leaders from across the private and public sectors including Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning; Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO; Tim Ryan, U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner of PwC; and former NBA basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to discuss solutions to some of the underlying challenges driving inequality of opportunity for Black Americans.
The initiative is focused on bridging opportunity gaps in four key areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and the criminal justice system—all of which perpetuate broader inequities in society and hold back individual and business success and economic growth.
In order to drive meaningful, measurable impact, we must listen, learn, and lead. The U.S. Chamber recently released America's Opportunity Gaps: By the Numbers, a research compilation to help quantify the racial divides in key areas and explore some of the contributing factors. The findings will inform our work as we pursue targeted, data-driven, and sustainable policy and private sector solutions. We will share additional information and resources on the initiative as they become available.
Tom O'Rourke, CCE
President and CEO
After a long few months, we are beginning to gain more clarity on reopening the economy of the region, the state and the world for that matter.
At this time it is incumbent on business owners to familiarize themselves with the protocols and safety measures necessary to ensure a safe opening for employees and customers. The last thing any of us needs is a spike in infections that leads to another shutdown.
The state has provided a great deal of sector-specific guidance for businesses preparing to reopen. We have worked hard to ensure that you have access to the latest and most relevant information to help you make decisions about your own particular business.
As you know, you can access all the tools and information you need on our COVID-19 webpage. Please do so, and if you need any assistance, don't hesitate to contact me.
I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the work of our local elected and appointed officials in preparing for reopening. I've participated in a number of video and conference calls with our municipal leaders as towns attempt to clarify local rules for businesses to reopen.
In particular, we will be seeing a dramatic shift in restaurant operations as they transition to outdoor dining. You should know that our civic leaders in the Neponset River Region have worked quickly to create opportunities for local eateries to adapt their businesses in order to get back up and running. Creating safe outdoor spaces where people and families can enjoy a meal and a drink is no small task. I've been particularly impressed with the flexibility our region's towns have shown and their willingness to experiment with new ways of doing things.
We still have a long way to go in this pandemic battle, but slow progress is being made. We will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to bring you the information and resources you need to come out of this intact and ultimately stronger.
I'm looking forward to dining at one of our member restaurants, hopefully as soon as next week.
President and CEO
As you know, the Governor has extended his emergency shutdown order until May 18th. While it is possible that it could be extended even further, the fact is we are getting closer to re-opening the economy and it’s time to take the necessary steps to prepare.
While government leaders and public health officials will make decisions and issue guidance on when we return to work, truly regaining some semblance of normalcy will be determined by how people feel and what motivates them to act or not act.
In short, the consumers will ultimately decide.
People must feel safe to venture back out into workplaces and entertainment venues. They must have confidence that our economy and their own finances will eventually recover to help drive the demand needed to restore growth.
I was on a call this week in which it was stressed that businesses play an important role in reassuring the public and instilling the confidence needed to return to work—and life.
Here are a couple of key takeaways from that presentation:
For the past several weeks we have worked hard to share with you all of the relevant resources and information from our public and private partners to help you through this crises – loan programs, grants, training, etc. Moving forward, we will be focused on providing you the tools you need to focus on the future and the re-opening of the economy and your business.
Please let us know what you need.
As a start, here are two resources that the Pioneer Institute in partnership with the law firm of Verrill, has put together to assist our community in doing a great job of preparing. These two checklists will help you comply with the law and keep your employees safe. These checklists for employers and commercial real estate managers will help you anticipate challenges before they arise and develop feasible and useful methods to successfully deal with those challenges when they do.
President and CEO
How can we help you?
That is the question we are continually asking here at the Chamber. We are experiencing something none of us ever could have imagined and certainly not planned for. So, in order to fulfill our commitment to providing our members with the connections they need under any circumstance, we have been asking for your guidance as to what you need.
To date that answer has been primarily – information. For the past few weeks we have been inundated with information from the federal government, state government, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Administration, other chambers of commerce and many more. We have done our best to curate that information and share it with you in a timely and easy to understand manner.
Now that the CARES Act is being implemented, we will continue to share information about how you can access benefits that can help your business survive. In fact, next Tuesday we are hosting a webinar describing how you can apply for benefits through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
We also recognize that social distancing, while important, doesn’t need to result in social isolation. We are now offering virtual meetings to bring members together to network, share their experiences or just have a friendly face to chat with. Our next "Chamber Chat" is Tuesday at 11:00 am and we will hold a "Chamber Social" trivia event on Thursday at 4:30 pm. We will continue to enhance these offerings as long is necessary.
If there is anything else that we can be doing to assist local businesses, please let us know.
How can you help us?
Like many of you, the Chamber is feeling the impact of this crisis. We are experiencing a loss of revenue to due to canceled events and the inability of many of our members to renew their memberships. While this is perfectly understandable, it is causing us to make adjustments to how we do business. Unfortunately, we have had to eliminate a staff position already.
Moving forward we will continue to invoice our members for their dues, and we thank you in advance for your payment. However, we know that everyone’s situation is different, so we have instituted additional payment options, for those who need it. We will allow partial payments to those who can manage that, monthly, quarterly, whatever it takes. Just reach out to us, so we can talk about your situation and set up payment arrangements. We will also adjust your future billing date to whenever you can make your renewal. Also, we will not cancel any memberships due to non-payment for the foreseeable future.
What we ask is that for those who can, please do your best to maintain your membership. If you can increase your investment to the Chamber, please consider doing so.
It is our intention to see that every business we serve has the tools and resources they need to manage through these times. We in turn, need your help and support to fulfill that pledge.
Rob Ferrini, McGowanPRO, Chair of the Board
Tom O’Rourke, President and CEO
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last night by the U.S. Senate offers $2.2 trillion in assistance to help individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
In addition to direct payments to most Americans that are expected to start within the next three weeks, the legislation provides $350 billion in aid to small businesses, as well as $500 billion in loans and other assistance to large companies and besieged states and cities.
It is important to note that the CARES Act has not yet been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives nor signed into law. Final action on the bill is expected tomorrow. We will update this article should any changes be made in the content.
Below are highlights of the legislation that impact businesses and individuals.
‘Recovery Rebates’ for Individuals
Depending on income level, taxpayers will receive a one-time “recovery rebate,” which is an advance refund of a 2020 tax credit. Individuals will receive $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filers) plus $500 for each qualifying child age 16 or under. The recovery rebate payments will be reduced and phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income of more than $150,000 (for joint filers), $112,500 (for heads of household) and $75,000 for other individuals.
The recovery rebate checks will be based on the adjusted gross income shown on your 2019 tax returns, or your 2018 tax returns if you have not yet filed for 2019. For Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns, the IRS will determine your eligibility for a recovery rebate based on your Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement.
The credit is not available to individuals who can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, or estates and trusts. Taxpayers will reduce the amount of the credit available on their 2020 tax return by the amount of the advance refund payment they receive. (continue reading)
The Neponset River Regional Chamber ushered in the new year with its 126th Annual Meeting last week at the Four Points Sheraton in Norwood.
Rob Ferrini, McGowanPRO, (in the photo) was elected as the new chair of the board replacing Alisia St. Florian, Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, who was recognized for her leadership during the Chamber's 125th Anniversary year.
In her remarks, Alisia thanked the board and the membership for their support throughout the year. She also welcomed 4 new members to the board of directors. (more about them below)
Finally, we recognized several members for reaching milestones as members of the Chamber and presented our awards to the following members:
· Small Business of the Year: LAUNCH
· Large Business of the Year: Castle Island Brewing
· Business Person of the Year: Matt McKee, Matt McKee Photography
· Paul Smith Volunteer of the Year: Katherine Touafek, School to Careers
Congratulations to Rob Ferrini and our award winners and thanks to all who joined last week.
President and CEO
Welcome to 2020!
All of us here at the world headquarters of the Neponset River Regional Chamber are looking forward to a strong year.
However, a quick look back reminds us that we have just completed our 125th year working for local business. We held a wonderful celebration event at the Paul Revere Heritage Site in Canton on a sunny September evening. We are grateful to all who came out to support us that night as guests, volunteers and sponsors.
In the coming year we are planning some tweaks to our programming in order to ensure that our events are meaningful and relevant to your business. For instance, we'll be adding an educational twist to our Morning and Noon Networking meetings. A monthly guest speaker will share information on topics important to your success.
Our Young Professionals are planning a dynamic panel presentation of young entrepreneurs to share their stories and inspire others to greater heights.
We also hope that you will find ways to engage (or re-engage) with us throughout the year. In addition to attending our networking and after hours events, we have a host of committees, alliances and referral groups to which you could belong. It's a great way to expand your network and learn new things. Read more about these opportunities here.
Finally, we do want to add that like any business, we do need to review our fee structure from time to time. Having recently done so, it has been decided that member dues will increase 5% in 2020. The previous two increases were in 2010 and 2016.
This decision was not made lightly and it was done recognizing that we continue to offer programming, opportunities for involvement and advocacy that supports your business to the best of our ability.
Again, we look forward to a successful year ahead and wish you a happy and healthy new year!
President and CEO
By Francis M. Walley III, CIC, CPCU | F. M. Walley Insurance, A Division of C&S Insurance
Each new year brings forth new resolutions. Most often, these are the goals we set for self-improvement and personal health. But as 2019 draws to a close and we open the door to a brand-new decade, I’d like to urge fellow Chamber members to focus on the wellbeing of their businesses. Specifically, I’d like to remind people about the coverage gaps that often exist in the areas of cyber liability and employment practices liability.
If you don’t know very much about these growing business risks, you’re not alone. Without totally boring you, here’s a quick look at both issues:
These days, cyber liability events can come in many different forms: phishing scams, malware attacks, a company-use cell phone lost or stolen at the airport. And the targets aren’t just mega corporations any more—far from it. According to a 2018 report, 58% of all cyber attacks targeted small businesses. Which begs the question:
What would happen if someone gained access to all your clients’ contact details and payment information? What is someone shut down your operating system for ransom? Between the cost of the business interruption itself and the cost of your legal fees, potential fines and penalties, forensic investigation, required customer notification and credit reparation services… experts estimate that recovery from even a “small” business data breach can cost between $36,000 and $50,000.
The good news is that cyber liability insurance can help you offset these costs, and protect your business from being victimized in the first place.
Employment Practices Liability
Now let’s talk about what’s happening inside your organization. You probably have insurance to protect your business in the event of a fire, right? But did you know: in today’s work environment, you’re more likely to be sued by an employee than experience a fire? It’s true. Employee lawsuits are on the rise. In 2015, in Massachusetts alone, small companies (those employing between six and fourteen workers) paid more than $1,400,000 in compensation for claimants’ lost wages and emotional distress.
The most common claims? Discrimination. Discrimination can mean denying a promotion, withholding a job offer, or firing an employee on the basis of race, religion, age, sex (including pregnancy), disability, citizenship, marital status, arrest record, gender identity, or military service. What’s more, in Massachusetts, you (the business owner) can be held liable for discriminatory actions made by your managers or supervisors.
For these reasons and many more, we believe it’s worth asking your agent for an EPLI (employment practices liability insurance) quote. EPLI helps companies pay to defend employee allegations (which can be pretty steep, even if you’re 100% in the right) and also address any settlements awarded.
Bottom line: we know there’s a lot of catch-up work to do after the year-end holiday break. And maybe your insurance program isn’t exactly top of mind this January. But if you have a free moment—in the coming weeks—we’re always here to help you review and reassess your Massachusetts business insurance program.
Meanwhile, we wish you all the best for a happy and prosperous new year. Cheers!
I write as I approach the end of my tenure as Chair of the Neponset River Regional Chamber to share some thoughts and reflections on what I have learned over the past year.
While attending a conference this past month on the state of education, I listened to Author Grant Lichtman present his new book, Thrive: How Schools Will Win the Education Revolution. Mr. Lichtman referred to Harvard Business School Professor John Kotter’s 8 Steps to Change which are as follows:
• Step One: Create Urgency
• Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition
• Step Three: Create a Vision for Change
• Step Four: Communicate the Vision
• Step Five: Remove Obstacles
• Step Six: Create Short-Term Wins
• Step Seven: Build on the Change
• Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
I realized later, as I reflected on what I had heard, that we can use these principles to guide us as we recognize and accept our changing business landscape and the inevitable ways that these changes impact us as a Chamber, and call on us to make appropriate adjustments. So, while change is never easy, it is our challenge at this point in time and one that I think these guiding principles will help us to achieve.
Mr. Lichtman concluded his talk by saying that to be successful in this era of competition and competing demands, the key is to make your product irresistible. I am confident that we can achieve this goal. So, while I end my time as Chair with much work still to be done, I invite you all to participate with your time, talent and treasure as we shepherd our Neponset River Regional Chamber to becoming simply irresistible in the eyes of our business community.
Alisia St. Florian
Chair of the Board
Murphy, Hesse, Toomey & Lehane, LLC