By Morgan Pilz, Staff Writer
(April 23, 2020) Even though her office is closed to the public, Economic & Community Development Director Ivy Wells has been working with Berlin businesses to help obtain grants and other assistance to stay afloat during the economic havoc created by the covid-19 pandemic.
“Initially, when the whole thing started, nobody really knew what was happening,” she said. “Nobody knew what was coming. Nobody knew what their options were at first.”
Wells has been participating in various conference calls with agencies all over the state to gather all the information she can.
“One of the conference calls that I had on a weekly basis was with John Hickman and the [Small Business Development Centers],” she said. “That initial call involved when they were putting these loans together.
“With the loans, some of the questions involved a lot of research and paperwork,” Wells said. “So, some of these businesses had to take the time to be able to supply all of this information, and a lot of them were still in the process of doing that when the money ran out.”
Wells also has been in contact with the Worcester County Economic Development Department, the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, Ocean City Hotel-Motel-Restaurant-Association and the Maryland State Arts Council in trying to come up with ways to prevent small businesses from closing.
Wells is in charge of aiding any establishment that has a business license in Berlin, so she has been consolidating all the information she has gathered to make it easier for Berlin businesses to apply for grants and other programs.
“Everyone was being bombarded with this loan and that loan,” she said. “What I was doing, was I was putting all that information together in an email form and I would send it out to all of the businesses that have a business license with us. I have their email address and I send this information out to each of them.”
The response from business owners has been overwhelmingly positive and is helping the owners, Wells said.
“Every now and again, I would get a call or an e-mail from one of the businesses saying, ‘Hey, thank you for the email, I have a question of this,’ or, ‘What do I do if I want to do this,’” she said. “Then I would direct them to the appropriate agency or person that they would talk to.”
Wells has sent around 240 financial aid emails to Berlin businesses.
“Sometimes people think that my job is only for downtown, but it’s the entire town,” Wells said. “I run the Main Street program, which only focuses on downtown, but the rest of the rest of Berlin is still part of Berlin.
“The most important thing that we could do right now is help our existing businesses survive,” she said. “They are the ones who have always pitched in whenever anyone needs a sponsorship for their sports team.
“The thing about Berlin is they’re our businesses, they’re our family,” Wells continued. “We all know each other here. We root for each other and we support each other, and this is the time when they need our support. So, it’s very important for us as a community and us as a town to ensure that our business community comes out of this.”
Before launching into her research effort, Wells had been working with businesses to encourage something she calls “cooperative capitalism.”
“One of the ideas I had for Sisters and Gilberts Provisions was to work together on a wine and cheese basket for people to be able to order and pick up because they’re stuck inside,” she said. “They might as well have a party while they’re while they’re quarantined.
“I told the boutiques to do an online fashion show and feature some of their family members sporting some of the fashions that are coming up in the spring,” Wells continued. “Just because you’re at home, there’s only so many sweatpants you can wear.”
Wells can still be reached at her office number at 410-629-1722 or through email at email@example.com.