Blog - Cambridge Chamber of Commerce

 

 

(February 5, 2021) – The Chamber Network is looking forward to create a co-ordinated approach to reopening the province’s economy in the wake of the pandemic and calling on the Provincial government to ensure this happens in a balanced fashion.

 

“In the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic, it is difficult to think beyond confronting the immediate demands of COVID-19,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher.   “However, even as we continue supporting each other today, we must also begin looking over the horizon to ensure businesses are prepared for the province’s reopening and recovery. It is never too early to start planning how our province and economy can emerge stronger while doing everything necessary to avoid further lockdowns.”

 

Each region’s experience differs significantly across the province when it comes to transmission rates, tracking and tracing capacity, and other variables.  The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce have written to the Premier so that when the time comes businesses of all sizes have a predictable and coordinated effort to ensure society reopens in a harmonized fashion that prioritizes individual safety as well as economic stability asking for the following:

 

  • A readiness plan with a focus on sectors and regions hardest hit. It is critical that Ontario’s employers are aware of how reopening will take place step-by-step so they can properly prepare.
  • Advanced notice. Businesses and their employees need sufficient time to prepare to get back to work. 
  • Clear guidelines. Businesses need to clearly understand the rules and how they will be enforced. Inconsistent and unclear public health guidelines cause confusion among businesses, employees, and consumers alike, and make it difficult for individuals to take appropriate action to protect themselves and their communities.
  • Fulsome communication. Educational training via virtual workshops in advance of reopening would equip employers with practical information to help them keep staff and customers safe.
  • Workforce management systems. Employers in Ontario should adopt a scalable digital software tool for routine self-screening and assessment by employees, as part of a comprehensive workforce management system.
  • Rapid testing. Sufficient and timely testing and tracing gets employees back to work quickly, ensuring continued productivity and reduced strain on families.
  • Evidence-based decision making. A strong testing and tracing apparatus ensures the province can accurately assess where and how the virus is spreading, so that efforts to target restrictions can be confidently based on solid data.
  • Continued supports for those who need it most. Finally, continued timely and accessible supports for business will prevent further layoffs, closures, and bankruptcies.
  • Leveraging private sector to support vaccine distribution and deployment. Businesses will be critical in supporting public awareness, logistical capabilities, and best practices.

“As the government explores options to safely re-open the economy, it is worth noting that businesses already adhere to a number of existing health and safety protocols and will do their part to support a safe re-opening. The business community will continue to prove their commitment to safety protocols to protect their worker and customers to keep their doors open,” added Durocher

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The amount of information surfacing almost daily surrounding COVID-19 can be daunting, especially for those running a business.

 

Trying to keep customers and employees safe while trying to conduct business has become a real change for many. But there is help available thanks to our ‘Chamber Check’ program.

This free and innovative program powered by Axonify and created in partnership with the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce offers valuable certification training to business owners and their employees when it comes to operating in a COVID-19 environment.

 

Through our Chamber Business Ready platform, Chamber Check participants are provided with a series of valuable resources, including videos and quizzes designed around various safety issues and potential scenarios that can arise while working in the midst of this pandemic.

 

For Patti Harris-Lindstrom, Office Manager of Towcon Holdings in Cambridge, receiving her Chamber Check certification proved to be a great way to collect additional knowledge.

 

“We’re trying to gather as much information as we possibly can because no one seems to know what this virus is all about,” she says. “We’re trying to take in as much information as we can to make informed decisions.”

 

As they work their way through the interactive and educational tools contained in the training, the knowledge the participants gain is designed to benefit them in the day-to-day operation of their businesses.

 

“We’ve been trying to keep on top of this as much as we possibly can and when this (Chamber Check) came out I decided to take it and see if there is anything we don’t already know,” says Patti, adding there was new information which proved beneficial and would gladly recommend others participate. “It’s very informative.”

 

Sara Chamberlin, Human Resources Manager at the Cambridge Hotel and Conference Centre, discovered the same and is pleased by the training provided.

“I was impressed that dealing with difficult customer service interactions was also part of the training, not just technical processes of wearing PPE,” she says. “This was very useful for our company.”

 

Stephanie Melo, Office Administrator/Health and Safety Co-ordinator at Sousa Concrete, also says the training she and members of her management office team received has been extremely helpful.

 

“One of the major things I learned was there is a difference between sanitation and disinfection,” she says, adding it only took her about an hour to complete the required modules.

 

The program can also be completed in short increments depending on work schedules, which is exactly what Sara did.

 

“It took me approximately two weeks as I did one to three modules a day,” she says.

But regardless of how participants approach it, the training they receive will strengthen the business community by helping create more consumer confidence.

“I knew it would be beneficial for the company to have since we take COVID-19 very serious,” says Stephanie, noting building consumer confidence is vital right now for all businesses. “It is very important since this is a very strange time we are living in.”

Sara agrees and has recommended that all her managers now complete the program.

 

“Any training program we can participate in, we will look into,” she says.

Providing as much support as possible to small businesses, especially now during COVID-19, was the key reason the Chambers developed Chamber Check.

“Being small businesses, it’s in our hands to do what we can to keep people safe, both those who work for us and those who enter our places of business,” said Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “That’s the best defence we have towards keeping our businesses open.”

 

Upon completion of the training participants receive a ‘Chamber Check’ certificate indicating they have received extensive safety education to conduct business in our COVID-19 world, plus the business receives a decal to be placed in a location to let customers know that workplace offers a safe environment.

 

The program, developed in consultation with Region of Waterloo Public Health, is available to not just business owners but any number of their employees who receive an email confirming they have completed the training.

 

“We’re proud to partner with The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce and Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce on the Chamber Check program. As a Waterloo‐based business we’re dedicated to doing our part to keep our local residents safe,” said Carol Leaman, Founder and CEO of Axonify.

To get your Chamber Check training, visit www.chambercheck.ca

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Plexiglass shields and hand sanitizer dispensers are just a few items that have become commonplace in many companies since COVID-19 took hold back in March.

 

But what does the future hold for offices and workplaces once this pandemic has become a thing of the past? That’s what a team of experts in conjunction with fabrik architects inc. in Cambridge are in the process of determining through the creation of possible pandemic responsive design possibilities.  

 

“The physicality of our built-in environment will have to change, even though we might be COVID free a year or two from now, people will always have a fear that it can happen again,” says Elisia Neves, fabrick’s Principal Architect. “It’s going to be ingrained in us.”

 

In response, the firm’s in-house design team began working on creating a series of possible designs back in the spring, bringing together an outside advisory board consisting of professionals including architects, pandemic disease specialists and materials science engineers. Together, the group has been feverishly looking at design matrices linked to pandemic responsive design for the commercial, office, residential and multi-residential sectors.

 

“Our building types are going to change,” says Elisia, adding that installing plexiglass shields and reconfiguring workstations to create more physical distance are just ‘Band-Aid’ solutions.

 

She says the changes in design will be systemic and centre on a rethinking of the long-lasting cycles of demolition and construction.

 

“We’re looking at all aspects of architecture; from the physical ways in which we plan and lay out our spaces, to looking at the systems integrated into our buildings,” says Elisia, referring to the mechanical systems. “How do we get cleaner air into our buildings? What does that look like? How do we retrofit? We’re going to have a lot of retrofit projects in the future.”

 

And when it comes to new builds, she says the design matrices will also consider potential materials and what will provide the least possibility for contamination and can be easily maintained.

 

Besides materials, the layout of office spaces is also being considered which could mean fewer traditional work ‘cubicles’ since many people may be working from home and the creation of more communal places for employees to connect, such as conference spaces and communication areas.

 

“The thing that will never change is the need for a variety of different spaces,” says Elisia, referring to places where employees can gather to access office equipment, such as photocopiers and other supplies.

 

“We want the design to be thought-through, so we don’t have those things in place,” she says, referring to plexiglass shields and barriers.

 

Also, automation, touchless and digital technologies are other considerations that Elisia says are being addressed to make buildings ‘smarter’, even having the capability to identify you before allowing you entry.

 

“I think we (Architects) are going to make them (buildings) more intelligent so you’re not going to even need a key or a fob,” she says, noting all these changes will take time and study. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a very gradual thing.”

 

Elisia says the fabrik team has a couple of office space projects on the horizon that could provide them with good models to test their new matrices.

 

“The idea is to have two matrices vetted by the advisory board by the end of the year,” she says, adding work on one of these significant new builds could be starting in January 2021. “That would be a really good pilot project to test the research we have been doing.”

 

Elisia says developing these matrices fits perfectly into the many ‘strands’ that encompass what fabrik strives for as an innovative architectural firm.

 

“I think this is a very strong strand that’s not going to go away very quickly in the minds of people,” she says. “We want to do it right.”

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Small business keeps the Canadian economy healthy, but the continued effects of COVID-19 have left many SMEs on life support at a time when we need them the most.

 

“Never has there been a time that is more important to shop locally and spend locally, and support your friends, family and your community by buying from a local small business,” says Cambridge Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher.

 

Despite a strong local economy thanks to a number of larger industrial businesses and manufacturers, he says at least 70% of our local workforce is employed by SMEs.

 

“They employee most of the people who live in the community,” says Durocher. “So, it’s vital for us to make sure we do whatever we can to help small business.”

 

He is hopeful the federal government’s revamped COVID-19 relief programs which aim to steer $2.2 billion into the pockets of commercial tenants and the extension of the wage subsidy that should cover 65% of eligible costs for business owners through December, will provide some assistance.

 

“The problem is that the big gears in government turn very slowly,” he says, adding processes that normally could take months or even years are being put in place in a matter of days. “That bucks against the system and it makes it difficult for government to do that because they like to analyze everything before they send it out the door.”

 

Durocher says the original and much criticized CECRA (Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance program) is as an example of an initiative that needed serious fine tuning.

 

“They rushed stuff out putting in legislation, which to some degree protected the government, and then found no one qualifies for it because of those protections,” he says. According to a CBC report, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CIFB) estimates that 47% of small business tenants who needed help with rent couldn’t access the $3 billion budget set back in April, and that as of early October approximately $1.8 billion of that budget had been spent.

 

“We’re (Chamber network) cautiously optimistic at this point the new commercial rent assistance program is going to be better and appeal to more small businesses, or include more small businesses in the equation,” says Durocher, adding the Chamber network has been encouraging Canada’s Minister of Small Business Mary Ng and the finance ministry to roll it out soon so they can review the regulations.

“They’re (federal government) trying to make key changes necessary to make the program more responsive to small business owners, so I think they’re trying to move it along fairly quickly.”

 

He expects the new program will appeal to more small business owners because it will take the onus off the landlords, many of whom were also facing heavy financial burdens under CECRA, and will feature a ‘sliding scale’ that will give businesses who’ve seen a 70% drop in revenues up to 65% of rent coverage.

 

Besides rent relief, Durocher says the extension of a revamped wage subsidy program until June 2021 is also a positive move since our economy is facing some ‘sluggish’ months ahead.

 

“The wage subsidy is going to be very important moving forward, however, the criteria around the new program is that it’s variable so depending on what your revenue has dropped by will determine the amount of subsidy you’ll receive,” he says. “The new program really takes into account those businesses that have reopened and are getting more of their revenue back.”

 

As well, Durocher says the revamped CEBA (Canadian Emergency Business Account) program, which will now provide interest-free loans of up to $20,000, on top of the original $40,000, can also provide much-needed relief for small business owners.

“I think it’s a really important part of the puzzle,” he says. “It’s not that a small business needs, wants, or should accumulate debt, but these are extraordinary circumstances. The important thing will be how do you find a path to ensure ‘my business’ comes out of this pandemic.”

 

Unlike larger businesses, Durocher says SMEs do not have the luxury of being controlled by the global status of the economy.

 

“They can only survive, or fail, based on the local economy,” he says. “What we all know is that we’re sick and tired of the pandemic, but the virus isn’t tired of making us sick.”

 

Impact of COVID-19 on SMEs – (StatsCan and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce)

  • 68% saw revenue decrease by 10% or more
  • 22% unable to stay fully or partially open during the pandemic
  • 25% can’t stay open more than three months
  • 1.2 million SMEs in Canada (426,490 in Ontario) as of December 2017
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Small businesses are at the heart of our communities. They create good jobs, grow our economies and bring life to our main streets. But they have also been among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

As we continue to fight this virus, small businesses face further losses, increased costs to reopening and an uncertain economic future. The Government of Canada is committed to doing whatever it takes to support small businesses and their communities. Their success is critical as we recover and rebuild from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

On Tuesday, during Small Business Week, the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, announced an investment of $12 million in the Canada United Small Business Relief Fund.

 

“The support announced today is yet another lifeline for resilient small businesses across Canada. These grants will help them cover expenses involved in reopening and allow them to build a stronger digital presence,” said Ng.  “As we’ve said from the very beginning of this pandemic, we will always be there for small businesses and the millions of hard-working Canadians they employ.”

 

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher welcomed the news. “There has never been a more important time to support local small business than right now. They are critically important to our own local economy.”

 

Canada United is a national fundraising campaign created by the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) in collaboration with private sector partners and provincial and territorial chambers of commerce, including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC). The campaign has been rallying support from Canadians for local small businesses in every corner of the country.

 

The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, which is managed by the OCC, is supporting Canadian businesses across different sectors and industries with grants of up to $5,000. These grants will help thousands of small business owners cover the costs of personal protective equipment, make physical modifications to their businesses to meet local health and safety requirements, and enhance their digital or e-commerce capabilities. This is especially important as we enter the second wave of the pandemic.

 

This investment builds on the federal government’s continued support for small and local businesses through a wide range of COVID-19 emergency programs, such as the expanded Canada Emergency Business Account, the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and the new Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy.

 

At A Glance:

 

  • Starting on October 26, small businesses can apply online through the Ontario Chamber of Commerce for the next wave of Canada United Small Business Relief Fund grants.
  • Applications are open to small businesses across sectors and industries in every part of the country that have between $150,000 and $3 million in annual sales; have up to 75 employees; are registered in Canada; and would use the grant to cover the costs of personal protective equipment, make physical modifications to their businesses to meet local health and safety requirements, and enhance their digital or e-commerce capabilities.
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Canadians, and their local restaurants and pubs, already pay some of the highest alcohol taxes anywhere in the world.

 

Next April 1, the government is going to want even more money from cash-strapped Canadians and desperate small business owners.

 

The timing could not be any worse as the global pandemic continues to crater the Canadian economy. Just as households are struggling to make ends meet and local restaurants are disappearing, the federal government continues to apply an automatic tax increase on beer, wine and spirits.

 

But the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and its network, which includes the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce, is hoping to help ease some of that burden after launching the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign. It calls on the federal government to put an end to the unfair alcohol escalator tax in the next federal budget and give Canadians a much-deserved break.

 

This automatic yearly increase was introduced by the federal government in Budget 2017 without consultation or economic analysis of its impact on consumers, the food service industry, producers and their agricultural suppliers.

 

“To have something that’s automatically increasing is problematic for sure,” says Matthew Rolleman, co-owner of Thirteen Food & Beverage in downtown Cambridge, explaining how any increase will eventually filter down to the customer. “We have to be a viable business and it’s got to come from somewhere.”

 

Alin Dinu, owner of The Easy Pour Wine Bar in Blair agrees, noting the cost of wine he serves often must be adjusted.

 

“I don’t always keep the same prices for guests, unfortunately, but they understand,” he says, adding even a temporary tax freeze would help customers.

 

Helping small business owners and giving consumers even a small break is the goal of the campaign says Canadian Chamber of Commerce CEO Perrin Beatty.

 

 “Surely, amid a global pandemic and a once-a-century economic downturn, there is cause to stop an automatic tax increase to ensure we help everyday Canadians to cope with the impacts of COVID-19,” he says.

 

And although he doesn’t have a problem with the tax in principle during times of prosperity, Matthew says putting a hold on the tax would be a welcomed goodwill gesture during this uncertain economic time.

 

“Anybody in the restaurant business will tell you we definitely need all the help we can get, there’s no question,” he says. “It would be a good time now because we need all hands-on deck.”

 

Matthew says although his patio was busy throughout the summer, he’s not sure what the coming months will bring. Alin concurs and says Easy Pour’s new patio, which seats about 20 under current COVID-19 restrictions, has been very busy. However, he is unsure how long it can remain open.

 

“People aren’t super excited about coming inside right now,” says Matthew. “There is such uncertainty.”

 

To help drive the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has partnered with Beer Canada, Spirits Canada and various Canadian hospitality industry.

 

“Hotels, restaurants and bars having been hit the hardest by the pandemic, with over a million jobs lost and thousands of restaurants closed permanently. Keeping the escalator tax in place does nothing but cause harm to businesses and the thousands of Canadians they employ,” says Luke Chapman, Interim President of Beer Canada.

 

This sentiment is echoed by Jim Wescott, president of Spirits Canada.

 

“Canadians wouldn’t stand for automatic tax increases on their take home pay, and they shouldn’t stand for it on their favourite Canadian whisky or cocktail that they enjoy as they socialize or celebrate key life moments with family and friends,” he says. “Canadians elect parliamentarians to scrutinize how money is collected as well as spent, and taxes going up without such scrutiny is completely undemocratic.”

 

The campaign is supported by:

 

Arterra Wines Canada

Barley Council of Canada

Beer Canada

Big Rig

Boston Pizza

CWB Franchise Finance

Firkin Group of Pubs

Foodtastic

Grain Growers of Canada

Northland Restaurant Group

Ontario Federation of Agriculture

Restaurants Canada

Service Inspired Restaurants (SIR Corp)

Spirits Canada

St. Louis Bar and Grill Restaurants

The Beer Store

 

For more information on the Freeze the Alcohol Tax campaign, visit: www.freezethealcoholtax.ca

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A new idea has surfaced for a Cambridge bottled water provider to help it combat the effects of COVID-19.

 

Mineva – Water Refined, which has provided water treatment systems in Cambridge since 2011 centred on the process of electrolysis to remove bacteria and viruses, has received its DIN (Drug Identification Number) from Health Canada to manufacture a powerful disinfectant.

 

This new product, which the company is calling ‘Power Play’, is ideal for businesses, schools, and clubs.

 

“We started doing testing and making products back in March,” says Water Refined President Bryan Box, noting the idea first surfaced shortly after the lockdown. At that time, in accordance with safety protocols, his technicians were restricted from entering homes and businesses, which includes dairy farms, to install or service the firm’s patented water technology. 

 

However, he says some employees were kept busy thanks to the company’s work as operators for the wastewater plant of a local manufacturing facility.

 

“That kept some revenue coming in,” says Bryan.

 

But things changed a couple of weeks into the COVID-19 crisis when he began fielding phone calls and requests from clients asking if their water systems could be ‘tweaked’ to create disinfectant.

 

“I had two home users and a dentist all within 10 hours call and ask if they could take their electrolysis system and add salt to it and make disinfectant,” says Bryan, explaining this formula leads to the creation of hypochlorous acid, a very safe substance that white blood cells manufacture to fight infections.

 

“It’s a very powerful disinfectant but very safe,” he says.

 

These requests, including one from a competitor asking if they could use the company’s water bottling line in St. Catharines, prompted Bryan and his team to begin looking into Health Canada regulations to see  how they could pivot their operation to start manufacturing disinfectant.

 

“We joked that we started going down the rabbit hole,” he says.

 

As they investigated this possibility, his company also began sourcing another disinfectant called ‘Neutralyze’ from a B.C. company that does similar work to get the ball rolling locally.

 

Bryan says they enlisted the help of a consultant to help navigate the Health Canada system, which can be daunting, to obtain a DIN.

 

“You don’t know if it’s going to take two months, four months or even eight months,” he says.

 

The proper approvals were obtained, and Bryan says his new product has already been used at the Cambridge Sports Park, The Zone Training in Waterloo and Guelph, Cambridge Kips Gymnastics Club, several dance studios and dental offices.

 

As a father with children who are active in the local sports community, he says having a locally produced product will make it less costly for many organizations.

 

“The prices out there are just astronomical,” says Bryan, referring to the cost of other products available on the market.

 

He says his company has also been in contact with local school boards letting them know about these products as schools prepare to welcome students back.

 

“There might be a mad dash when schools realize there’s not a lot of supply around and everybody’s scrambling,” says Bryan, adding his company is also toying with the idea of providing the necessary prepackaged ingredients to let customers use their own water systems to create the disinfectant. It’s a plan that would also require Health Canada approval.

 

“But that could be another 12 to 18 months do this,” he says, adding he has learned a great deal over the past few months.

 

“It certainly has been an interesting process,” says Bryan.

 

For information about these new products, please visit www.mineva.com

 

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The Cambridge Chamber has joined Canada United, a national movement to support local businesses in communities across the country.

 

As part of the movement, RBC has brought together more than 50 of Canada’s leading brands, Business Associations and the national Chamber network to rally Canadians to “show local some love” by buying, dining and shopping local.

 

“The Cambridge Chamber is pleased to support the Canada United movement and help bolster businesses in and around our community. Small businesses are the backbones of our local economies and key to thriving communities,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Greg Durocher. “The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for businesses in our region and across the province. We need to continue to support SMEs who create jobs, drive innovation, and generate wealth for communities across Ontario – they will play an integral role in helping the province bounce back.”

 

Canadians are invited to join the Canada United movement by buying and dining local, including celebrating and supporting local businesses during the Canada United Weekend from August 28 to 30.

 

Canadians are also encouraged to watch the Canada United videos online at GoCanadaUnited.ca, like posts from @GoCanadaUnited on social media and use #CanadaUnited to demonstrate their support. For each of these actions until August 31, 2020, RBC will contribute 5 cents up to a maximum contribution amount of $2 million to the new Canada United Small Business Relief Fund, while working with government and corporate partners to source additional contributions to the fund during the course of the campaign. This fund will provide small businesses with grants of up to $5,000 to cover expenses related to personal protective equipment (PPE) renovations to accommodate re-opening guidelines and developing or improving e-commerce capabilities.

 

Small Canadian businesses across the country will be able to apply for up to $5,000 in grant funding. The program intends to support small Canadian businesses of all kinds from across the country. The Canada United Small Business Relief Fund will be administered by the Ontario Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the national Chamber network. Small business owners who are interested in the program can visit GoCanadaUnited.ca to learn more about grant application details, including eligibility criteria, and to apply.

 

“We are excited to welcome the Cambridge Chamber to Canada United to help local businesses and Canada’s economy come back strong,” said Neil McLaughlin, Group Head, Personal & Commercial Banking, Royal Bank of Canada. “Canada United was created to kick-start an economic rebound by rallying consumers to give local businesses the support they need to re-open during these uncertain times. By bringing together government, business associations and corporate Canada, we are looking to start a movement to get Canadians to buy local and support businesses across the country. We are genuinely excited by the energy all of our partners are bringing to this effort.”

 

“If there has been one silver lining in all the tragedy and sacrifices of the current crisis, it has been the spirit of collaboration and unity of purpose that has been evident between levels of government, across provinces and across sectors,” said Rocco Rossi, President and CEO, Ontario Chamber of Commerce.

 

“We are calling on that same unity of purpose with Canada United. Small, local businesses are the heart of our communities, our Main Streets and our economy. Together, it is time to show local some love.”

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