Hunterdon Economic Recovery Task Force awards grants to local businesses

The new Hunterdon Economic Recovery Task Force has worked with the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce Foundation to establish a Hunterdon Economic Recovery Fund.

Recently, the Chamber Foundation has awarded six Small Business Recovery Grants through the Hunterdon Economic Recovery Fund. The Task Force was established this year as a direct result of the pandemic.

“The Task Force was formed to look at the long-term recovery needs for the business community here in Hunterdon County,” said chamber President Chris Phelan. “This has been an unprecedented year with so many challenges from COVID 19, to the economic loss, that we know we needed to look at developing long-term strategies to help in the recovery through 2021.”

According to Paul Muir, president of the Guild of Clinton and executive director of the Red Mill Museum Village, “COVID hit and we began to realize that there was going to be a deep financial impact – we had the very basic need of keeping our stores open.”

Without a dedicated foundation of its own, the Clinton Guild and other county business organizations partnered with the Hunterdon County Chamber of Commerce Foundation to enable tax deductible donations to be collected and paid out by the Chamber Foundation/Center for Business & Entrepreneurship in the form of a Small Business Recovery Grant Program.

Local business organizations who have partnered in the project include the Clinton Guild, High Bridge Business Association, Flemington Community Partnership, Delaware Rivertown’s Chamber of Commerce, Frenchtown Business Association and the Milford Merchants Association.

The recipients of the first Small Business Recovery Grants are Chameleon Blue, Heartstrings, Beyond Bijoux, Roses In Your Hair, Balic of Clinton, and Rosemarie’s Cucina. The grant criteria focused on retail shops and restaurants with less than 20 employees and no chain affiliations.

“Thanks to the generosity of Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach, Clinton Councilwoman Sherry Dineen, the Town of Clinton Recreation Commission, and many others, $5,000 was raised to start the program, allowing the first six $500 grant checks to be issued,” Muir explained.

Creativity and community entered the mix with fund raisers such as a Drive-in-Movie Night organized by Clinton’s Recreation Commission and sales of a Hunterdon Strong T-shirt designed by a Hunterdon Prep student.

“It was a very successful initial effort,” Muir said. “It meant the world to the businesses who received the grants, and we’re looking to extend the program with continued funding.

“Our retailers and restaurants are the heart and soul of this area. They make up our downtown and it’s important that we help ensure that they’re all still here for us when we come out of this pandemic.”

According to Phelan, “The chamber and the foundation are proud to be here for our business community during this particularly trying time. Thanks to generous donors, a spirit of cooperation, and a genuine concern for our neighbors in the business community, all of the organizations involved in the Economic Recovery Task Force have been able to offer some much-needed assistance to these small businesses.”

To donate to the Hunterdon Economic Recovery Fund and or for more information about the Hunterdon Economic Recovery Task Force, contact the Hunterdon County Regional Chamber of Commerce office at 908-782-7115 or visit www.hunterdonchamber.org.

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