I must absolutely begin this month's column with a ginormous thank you! And since I'm not at the Oscars and no one will rush me off of the stage, I can take my time and thank every single person and organization that helped to make our Hometown Fourth of July Parade and Summer Sundays a success (simply skim down two paragraphs if you don't want to acknowledge these awesome folks - but shame on you if you do!) We could not accomplish any of these events without our corporate sponsors: Adams Community Bank, Berkshire Direct, EXTRA!, Greylock Federal Credit Union, MountainOne, Stop & Shop, Where'd You Get That!?, Williams College, Williamstown Community Chest and the Town of Williamstown.
And our on-the-ground help has made these summer events run like a well-oiled machine! Our Fourth of July (barbeque) pit crew: Nick Civello (husband extraordinaire) Steve Conroy (BFAIR), Jason Dohaney (MountainOne), Paul Hopkins (NBH), Allen Jezouit (Berkshire Direct), Carolyn Jones (Custom Business Solutions), Mary Kennedy (Town of Williamstown) and Lucy Pavalock (Custom Business Solutions). And our faithful Summer Sundays crew - four weeks in a row is a long commitment: Paula Consolini (Williams College), Kathi George (Until Forever Nursery), Michelle Gietz (WYGT!?), Elinor Goodwin (Berkshire Direct), Cecelia Hirsch (IS 183), Emma Pingree-Cannon (Williams College ‘15 Chamber intern), Anne Singleton (Williamstown Community Chest), Maureen Strype (Williams College), Sandra Thomas (Images Cinema) and a huge contingent of Williams College student volunteers (too many for even me to recall their names, but those tables didn't move themselves!).
While it seems like the bulk of our summer excitement is drawing down, there is still much to look forward to, even if it's not parades, barbeques, festivals and hoopla. And though it may not seem so, one of the underlying goals of all of our events is to bring some additional customers into our small businesses.
Does it always work? Nope. Unfortunately, the intended outcome doesn't always happen, no matter how hard we try.
But the heartbeat of our downtown district, the pulse of the larger economy, is fueled by small businesses.
When disaster hits an area, whether it is natural, economic or human, picking up the pieces of a small business isn't easy, and it's often impossible.
In an announcement several weeks ago, the U.S. Economic Development Administration awarded a Disaster Relief Opportunity grant to the Franklin County Community Development Corporation with project partners Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments.
This funding comes to this area via the federal funds set forth after Tropical Storm Irene and the need for economic recovery and resiliency.
The goal of the grant-funded project is to provide support for small businesses and entrepreneurs.
And what does that mean for you, the small business owner in Northern Berkshire County?
Lots! The Chamber is a major collaborator in this project. The grant will provide resources to Northern Berkshire small businesses, and potential businesses, in the form of technical assistance, counseling, training, financing and many opportunities to meet with industry experts.
Additionally, this grant will support a full-time position that will be located in North Adams to assist small businesses in accessing these services.
Our Chamber has begun working closely with the grant administrators, the Franklin County Community Development Corporation.
We will be offering opportunities for local small businesses to learn about what services might be available to assist them in remaining resilient, regardless of the climate and challenges that they're facing.
So stay tuned! I'll be the first to admit, it's tough to switch gears from full-throttle event planning to small business economic resiliency, but we wear many hats at the Chamber.
I'm hopeful that many Northern Berkshire small businesses and entrepreneurs will take advantage of these upcoming opportunities.
For more information on this project or general Chamber info, please contact me at 413-458-9077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jennifer Civello is the Executive Director of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.