The four municipalities of Cape Ann and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce have been awarded a regional grant designed to support local businesses and help them, and Cape Ann, make a comeback from the pandemic.
The $180,000 Commonwealth of Massachusetts Regional Pilot Program grant was awarded to the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with the four Cape Ann communities of Gloucester, Rockport, Manchester-by-the-Sea and Essex to carry out the program, called “Cape Ann Comeback.” Funding for the grant is immediate, with the focus on supporting businesses in time for expanded vaccinations and the summer season.
The program comprises three main elements: direct business support, engagement and empowerment; an innovative online Cape Ann Marketplace; and a marketing campaign, with new video – all to reinforce that Cape Ann businesses are resilient, innovative and safe.
"Each element of the project is intended to ensure that Cape Ann businesses, especially those on Main Street, downtown and cultural district areas have the tools and the support they need to make a strong recovery from the severe economic impacts of the pandemic,” said Ken Riehl, Chamber CEO. “We invite all businesses to participate in this exciting opportunity and look forward to helping them achieve their goals.”
For Manchester Town Planner Sue Brown, who helped prepare the grant application, the appeal of working together was obvious: scale through collaboration.
“Like most small towns, (Manchester) doesn’t have the capacity to undertake such a project on its own,” she said. “So we are extremely thankful for the collaboration and for what each member of the planning team is bringing to this critical initiative to support our businesses and our communities.”
Applying for the grant was an all-hands-on-deck process, with planners and representatives from all towns working together with the Chamber to craft a unified approach to recovery this summer.
Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken expressed her enthusiasm for the program, saying, "The City of Gloucester is excited to work with the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce and our fellow Cape Ann communities. As Mayor, I am a firm believer in regional economic development because by working together, we will indeed have a "Cape Ann comeback!"
Donna Roy of Woodman’s and President of the Essex Merchants Group said, “We now have a tremendous opportunity to provide truly meaningful support to our Cape Ann friends and neighbors – the people who own, manage, work at and depend upon the small businesses that are the lifeblood of our communities. So many of them have been severely impacted by the pandemic, and together we are now in a position to help and empower them to come back strong and thrive.”
“Rockport’s business community is the lifeblood of our small tourist town and our shops, lodgings and restaurants were impacted severely this past year. Working in conjunction with the Chamber and our business community is vital to move forward from the Covid pandemic. Wonderful news,” said Ruth George, Chair of the Rockport Board of Selectman.
One of 37 Regional Pilot Program grant recipients, the Chamber and its local partners were selected based on their ability to demonstrate a collaborative approach on strategies to support business recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis.
“These grants will empower recipients to leverage their own local expertise to tailor recovery strategies that support the unique needs of each region of Massachusetts,” said Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.