The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Milford is focused on getting businesses in Milford back up to 100 percent occupancy as quickly as possible as health officials work to get a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic. Although she did not have specific statistics about the impact the pandemic has had on Milford area businesses, Jo Schmeiser, Executive Director, stated that the chamber was well aware as 2021 began the impact the shutdown has had on Delaware’s economy.
“We are working with the Governor’s office, the Delaware Division of Small Business, all the chambers in the state and the Department of Labor,” Schmeiser said. “We are currently focusing on several legislative issues potentially effecting the future of business including Delawareans and all Delaware workers being given top priority in the COVID vaccination rollout, having no increases or changes to the minimum wage, training wage or youth wage until the unemployment rate reaches 3.6 percent and paid family leave not being mandated by the government for businesses, especially small businesses who are defined as 50 employees or less.”
Schmeiser explained that it was critical to get the state back up on its feet which can only be done if the economy can get back on its feet. She stated that businesses need assurances that they can operate without unreasonable imposition of escalating costs
“We cannot add more costs to doing business in our state, especially as we come out of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schmeiser said. “Our businesses are the future of this state and they need our support now more than ever.”
Currently, non-profits seem to be struggling the most as they depend on hosted events to raise the funds they need to operate. In addition, restaurants and other businesses that require full capacity in order to meet expenses.
“We have been very fortunate in the greater Milford area, as our members are business savvy, creative and flexible,” Schmeiser said. “Most have made the changes they’ve needed to make to stay current and stay in business. We’ve all, including the chamber, had to change the way we think and the way we operate. Technology has played a huge part in working through the pandemic, and the business owners and operators in the communities we serve have learned to think outside the box and learned the technologies necessary to be successful.”
Schmeiser stated that the calendar of events is full for the chamber this year, offering several options to grow a business throughout 2021. Events such as monthly Business Mixers along with Lunch & Learn Zoom workshops are great networking events that allow businesses to learn more about what is available to them in the city. It also offers the opportunity for them to provide others with information about their business. Events that are open to the public area also planned, including Girls Night Out, Honorary Mayor, a golf tournament in partnership with the Milton Chamber of Commerce, the 20th Annual Riverwalk Freedom Festival, Holiday Auction and Tastes of Milford along with the Holiday Mixer and Gift Drive can also help local businesses promote themselves.
“The chamber, along with the City of Milford, Downtown Milford, Inc., the Milford School District, the DSWA, Keep Delaware Beautiful, Perdue and the Milford Church of God are partnering to host a Community Clean-Up on Saturday, April 24,” Schmeiser said. “This event will bring businesspersons, community leaders and volunteers together to help make Milford a nice clean place to live, work and play. In addition to the events we’re hosting this year, we also provide free email blasts and social media posts to help promote our members and we are currently using Southern Delaware Tourism, the Milford Museum, the Turf Sports Complex, the Delaware Association of Chambers, the City of Milford, Downtown Milford, Inc. and through our Board of Directors, Legislative Affairs Committee and Ambassador Committee, all event committees and our Economic Development Joint Tax Force. Already this year, the chamber has 18 new members and several inquiries about joining the chamber, so we are off to a good start.”
Andy Stevens chairs the chamber’s Economic Development Joint Task Force and they are currently working on a member survey that will be asking members what challenges they have faced in the past year, how they have responded, what challenges are still persisting and if there is anything the chamber can do to help, according to Schmeiser. Once the responses are calculated, focus groups may be formed or the task force will discuss common denominators in order to develop a plan to answer the needs of local businesses.
“Although we have not been given specific details yet, we have been told that if hospitalization numbers and positive cases continue to decrease, restrictions will be lifted accordingly,” Schmeiser said. “With help and approval from the Governor’s office and the Delaware Division of Small Business, we have been able to hold successful and safe events inside and outside during the past year. We want to continue offering our members benefits and opportunities to grow their business yet want to make sure we’re following any and all regulations and guidelines to help keep our members COVID free.”