While the Payroll Protection Program was intended to help mom-and-pop shops, more than half of the roughly $525B in PPP loans doled out through November 2020 went to just 5% of the 5 million total recipients. Most of the loan money was given to larger businesses. 100,000 (and counting) businesses have permanently shuttered since lockdowns.
At The Mill, we have had a front row seat to the blight of many Delaware-based small businesses. Some have had to pivot, downsize, and for a few, close. Based on what we have heard from our members, we are asking our community to think carefully how they spend their money in the coming year. Our team at The Mill spent some time over the holidays collecting ideas and thoughts from our community on creative ideas that can help our small business community:
- Let’s utilize our extensive park system up and down the state. One of the positive takeaways from the pandemic is that the importance of outdoor public space was front and center. We would love to see new programming that allows for safe social distanced entertainment. Think about “movies in the park” up and down the state while your favorite local restaurant brings a meal to your families designated area. OR your favorite brewery staffs a beer garden on specific days of the week in safed sectioned off areas. Festivals put on by the state can help sell local artisan goods. As a member pointed out, we have a long mental health battle ahead of us as a result of this pandemic. Enjoying our park system and getting outside to congregate will really help!
- Let’s close down our main streets for select days of the week, relax open container laws, and support local bands for street festivities. Media, PA, has shown how vibrant a downtown can be – simply by closing a street down for outdoor seating on one night of the week with their “Dining under the Stars” program. We would love to see programming like this take place throughout the state of Delaware.
- Upgrade & Invest in more walkable downtowns that allow for expanded seating. Here in Wilmington, the Economic Development office did a wonderful job setting up outdoor seating quickly for the summer months of 2020. We should continue to make the licensing process for outdoor seats cost effective and simple for the coming years.
- Revisit and revise licensing requirements. To help our restaurant and bar scene, what if we allowed for an occasional “pop-up” liquor license in public space? Let’s encourage these sorts of programs.
- Unemployment taxes is something a lot of us small businesses are concerned about. We hope that careful consideration is given to how unemployment benefits are administers and re-structured in the coming years!
- Develop “shop local” campaigns; encourage and incentivize our large employers to support their community in different ways (that means you too State of Delaware, our largest of all employers here).
These are just a few of the many concepts we jotted down last year. We chose to post suggestions that involve creative, fun ideas that can be solved with administrative re-tooling.