CHESTER — The Queen Anne’s County Chamber of Commerce completed its “Moving Forward — Planning for the Post Pandemic World” meeting with more than 60 local business leaders Wednesday, May 13, via an online Zoom format. The meeting, which originally began on May 5, had at least six scheduled speakers talking about plans for business life in the county after COVID-19, was successful for the first 30 minutes until it was disrupted with pornographic images and had to be canceled.
Before ending the May 5 meeting, QA Chamber of Commerce President Linda Friday announced, “We’ll reschedule the meeting in the near future.” Those who had attended the May 5 meeting received an email early Tuesday, May 12, that the meeting had been rescheduled, and passed on the information to pre-register to join the meeting.
Friday commented, “We feel Queen Anne’s County businesses are now moving forward in a safe environment, using all our resources. We had a well-rounded group of panelists, covering HR, financial, marketing, IT and health.”
Those who presented at the meeting were meeting moderator Bill Hufnell, CPA, CFP of Bay Point Wealth; attorneys Mark Schweighofer and Susan Stobbart Shapiro, Tony Bird, accountant manager with Rinck Advertising; Dale Walls, founder and CEO of Corsica Technologies in Centreville; and Jennie Burris, deputy health officer of the QA Department of Health. Health Officer Dr. Joseph Ciotola was present at the May 5 meeting, but was unable to attend May 13.
Friday and Hufnell welcomed everyone. Hufnell said, “This session will provide practical advice to use following this adversity caused by the pandemic.”
He advised businesses to “have a strong relationship with your local bank, who understands the local community.” He cited Queenstown Bank as an example of a bank he uses for dealings in QA County. “This conference is about professionals providing advice to professionals. We have to remember, we can’t let our emotions drive our decisions,” he added.
Hufnell introduced Schweighofer, who specializes in tax and business planning.
Schweighofer said, “Keeping good documentation during this time period is very important. Tax incentives under PPP will provide immediate write-offs for 2020.”
He also stated, “The past nine-weeks have turned business owners on their heads. The federal government is providing financial funding assistance, and there is the possibility of loan forgiveness in some circumstances.”
Shapiro followed, providing employment information for big and small businesses. She cited the Families First Act and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act to help employees that have been laid off. She also mentioned “keeping good records.”
There was a quick mention of employees being afraid to return the work because COVID-19 is still active in communities. “That fear” doesn’t qualify people for financial assistance, she said.
It was mentioned that many people who are now on unemployment are being paid more than when they were actually working, and that may create a problem for employers as to how to motivate those employees to return to work. Shapiro said current unemployment benefits will run out in July. Also, employers have to be honest by informing their employees that positions have to be filled, and if someone else is willing to take the job, then the former employees won’t have a job to come back to — laid-off employees need to consider that.
Dale Walls spoke briefly about his specialty at Corsica Technologies and how demand for his company’s services had increased tremendously since the stay at home directive was given by Maryland Governor Larry Hogan. Corsica Technologies serves not only Maryland, but has over 30,000 users across the nation.
Walls said, “We’ve been asked to provide services for people who could not leave home. We’re here to help solve IT solutions to business demands. Businesses need to continue to have a security mind-set, especially about finances.”
Tony Bird addressed advertising needs, whether they be local, regional, national or international. He advised marketing strategies and brand planning for all businesses.
He said, “Many of our clients have a feeling that, of course, they don’t want to do the wrong thing. I recommend, first, looking at what type of marketing they were doing before the pandemic. Your customers like businesses to be consistent. Make sure as you re-open your business you speak to your customers through a mixture of mediums. Facebook and Instagram. Consider diversity in marketing, and I’m not say traditional advertising is dead. If you have a website for your business — it’s not a ‘set it and forget it’ approach. Updates are important, especially now! What’s your goal in digital advertising?”
Burris spoke very briefly. She was asked if the health department has a team that can come out to check businesses to make sure they’re doing everything correctly, for safety purposes, as they re-open. Burris asked those with concerns to contact her directly at the health department.
The conference was recorded, and copies of the meeting can be emailed if you were unable to attend. Contact the QA Chamber of Commerce for more information at 410-643-5011.