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Biz Roundup: Chamber’s 2021 membership directory, talent attraction guide available

SALISBURY — The Rowan County Chamber of Commerce’s 2021 Membership Directory and Talent Attraction Guide is now available. This annual publication is produced in conjunction with the Salisbury Post.

“The Post is very excited to again partner with the Chamber on this special publication. We consider it very important to people considering moving to Rowan County or planning to open a business. Joining the Chamber is great way to support the local business environment and this publication shows how great the support in Rowan is. Now more than ever, mutual support for our local economy will benefit us all,” said Salisbury Post Publisher John Carr. “I want to give special thanks to all the advertisers who support the publication. We strive to make it a high-quality publication, and highly attractive to readers. Without advertising support we simply could not do it. We thank you!”

The guide is specifically designed for employers to attract new employees to the community. It provides valuable information on demographics, education and training resources, recreation opportunities and government services. A new addition this year is a special minority business listing section with business name, contact name and emails included for women and minority owned businesses.   

Chamber ambassadors will be delivering the directory to the newest members during “Operation Thank You.” Existing Chamber members will get mailed copies. Non-members may purchase a copy for $10.

For more information, contact the Chamber at 704-633-4221 or info@rowanchamber.com or you can visit www.rowanchamber.com.

Food Lion earns top marks in LGBTQ workplace equality index

SALISBURY — Food Lion once again received a perfect score of 100% on the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2021 Corporate Equality Index, a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to LGBTQ workplace equality.

It was the 12th consecutive year that Food Lion received a top score.

“LGBTQ equality is important to Food Lion and we are proud to have earned a perfect score for the 12th consecutive year,” Linda Johnson, Senior Vice President of Human Resources & Chief Human Resources Officer at Food Lion, said in an ews release “We are committed to be a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ equality and to fostering a diverse and inclusive environment where associates have a sense of belonging and feel comfortable being themselves.”

In addition to receiving a perfect score on the index, Food Lion is also a member of the HRC Business Coalition for the Equality Act, which would create comprehensive non-descrimination protections for individuals in the LGBTQ community.

“Food Lion continues to support and prioritize LGBTQ equality,” said Maryja Mee, category analyst and chair of the Friends Business Resource Group at Food Lion, which is composed of associates from across Food Lion committed to ensuring the organization’s commitment to equality is brought to life throughout the company. “This score is a true representation of our mission of building a more inclusive company and stronger communities.”

The 2021 CEI evaluated LGBTQ-related policies and practices in four broad categories: non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, supporting an inclusive culture and corporate social responsibility.

The 100% ranking means Food Lion will again be designated as a 2021 Best Place to Work for LGBTQ Equality.

Kannapolis Farmers Market seeking vendors for summer

KANNAPOLIS — The Kannapolis Farmers Market is looking for vendors for the upcoming summer season.

The market is looking for people who offer a wide variety of fresh, local produce, as well as cheese, ice cream, honey, baked goods, spices, jewelry, soaps, candies, crafts, pottery, handcrafted wood items, art and more. Vendors pay an annual membership fee of $30, and a weekly rental fee of $10 per 14-foot space.

The market is open May through September and operates every Thursday from 4-7 p.m. at the corner of Vance Avenue and Dale Earnhardt Boulevard. 

For more information on the Farmers Market, visit www.kannapolisnc.gov/farmersmarket. If you are interested in being a vendor, contact Irene Sacks at isacks@kannapolisnc.gov or 704-920-4326.

North Carolina Bankers Association provides 2021 economic outlook

North Carolina Bankers Association Economist Harry Davis looked back at 2020 and provided an economic outlook for 2021:

After the longest expansion in history, the economy slammed into a wall and a recession in March 2020. The carnage was immediate, with the unemployment rate rising from the lowest level in 50 years to nearly 15%. Over 22 million people lost their jobs in March and April, compared to 11 million who lost their jobs during the Great Recession of 2008/2009. Wages and salaries, along with consumer spending, plunged as the economy was shut down. For the year 2020, Gross Domestic Product fell by 3-5%.  

For 2021, expect GDP growth to come in around a robust 5%. At the same time, expect the unemployment rate to fall to 5.5% by year-end. The federal government will not change the federal funds rate, but the 10-year treasury bond rate may rise to 1.5% by year-end.

Several sectors of the economy will do very well in 2021. Residential construction and home sales were very strong in the third and fourth quarters of 2020. Housing starts rebounded to pre-pandemic levels by the fall and home sales were at the highest level in over 12 years. With interest rates at historically low levels, housing will continue to be a growth sector for the economy in 2021.

This economic downturn was a service sector rather than a goods sector recession. The manufacturing and agricultural sectors also did extremely well.  Factory output expanded at double-digit rates during the last two quarters of last year. Electronics, home appliances and vehicle sales led factory output. Agricultural sales were robust due to the easing of trade tensions and additional purchases by China.

Loan growth will exceed 5% this year because of the Paycheck Protection Program and the overall strong economic growth. Rising interest rates later in the year will cause some steepening in the yield curve, improving net interest margins.

As the vaccine becomes widespread, hospitality, tourism and restaurants will show very strong growth in the second half of the year. People are tired of eating meals out of cardboard and styrofoam boxes. Cruise lines, resort hotels, and airlines will also experience rocket-like growth later this year.

Normal will be very different for how some people work. For millions of people, working from home all or part of the week will be the new normal. Business travel on planes will never return to pre-pandemic levels.

The recession fallout has been uneven across the economy, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. This trend started over 30 years ago, but the pandemic has accelerated this separation. Some economists have characterized the recovery as having a K-shape.

The North Carolina economy more and more mirrors the national economy. Our state economy has become more diversified over time and the population has grown to approximately 11 million. The drop in our gross state product was in line with that of the nation. Our state lost about 600,000 jobs last March and April, but we have regained a little over 400,000 new jobs.  Indeed, our state’s unemployment rate has remained under the national rate throughout the pandemic. Revenue growth for the state has been better than expected, and we have a large rainy-day fund. With stimulus money for state and local governments coming soon, the year 2021 should be a good one. Look for our state economy to continue to outperform the U.S. economy.

Monetary and fiscal policy will provide unprecedented support for the economy this year. The pandemic’s grip on our lives will loosen dramatically after the second quarter. Hopefully, by the fall much of our life will be back to a new normal with which we are comfortable.

SBA announces steps to improve loan review for Paycheck Protection Program

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently announced that it is taking steps to improve the First Draw Paycheck Protection Program loan review so that small businesses have as much time as possible to access much needed PPP funds. 

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are working with the SBA to identify immediate solutions to address eligibility, compliance, integrity and promote transparency. 

While reviewing the initial draw of PPP loans, anomalies – mostly data mismatches and eligibility concerns – were identified in approximately 4.7% of the lender-submitted data, the SBA reported. These concerns will require follow-up between the lender and the borrower so that borrowers can access a second round of loans. 

The SBA said that it is committed to working with lenders and eligible borrowers to provide the necessary information for follow-up and help get small businesses back on track so that they’re able to receive another round of PPP loans swiftly. The SBA encourages borrowers and lenders to work together as quickly as possible to resolve the issues. The SBA will automatically move favorable decisions to approval. During the newest round of PPP, the SBA has already approved over 400,000 loans for approximately $35 billion.

“Prior to this newest PPP round, the SBA supported 5.2 million PPP loan borrowers, providing more than $525 billion in economic relief to small businesses and other eligible entities,” SBA Acting Administrator Tami Perriello said in a news release. “The agency is committed to making sure compliance checks are executed on the front-end.  The SBA is also committed to addressing issues more efficiently moving forward, to ensure fair and equitable access to small businesses in every community.”

The SBA is immediately addressing the PPP loan review to allow for Second Draw PPP loan applications to be processed by:

  • Hosting a national call to brief lenders on the Platform’s additional detailed information that will assist in the resolution of First Draw PPP loan review and potential holds that impact Second Draw PPP loan application approvals
  • Equipping the Agency’s field team of lender relations specialists with information so they can provide support to lenders and borrowers in understanding the issues and facilitating the appropriate responses to resolve
  • Providing additional guidance to PPP lenders on the review and resolution process

Through SBA’s 68 district offices, the agency will work in close partnership with the Administration to further leverage its resource partner network and expand on multilingual access and outreach about the PPP. Updated PPP information, including forms, guidance, and resources is at www.sba.gov/ppp and www.treasury.gov/cares.

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