CAN DO, along with its entrepreneurial development arm, CAN BE, is partnering with fellow members of Greater Hazleton's Recovery & Resiliencey Task Force to help small businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce recently announced that it was awarded more than $240,000 in grant funding from Luzerne County to undertake economic development initiatives designed to help small businesses recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and also spur the local economy. The funds are part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding the County received from the state, and complements other initiatives being undertaken by the Greater Wilkes Barre Chamber and its partners.

CAN DO President and CEO Kevin O'Donnell said, "CAN DO is proud to join with the other members of the Recovery & Resiliency Task Force to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs across Greater Hazleton. We believe entrepreneurship plays a vital role in economic development in the area. These business owners bring jobs and economic prosperity to our area and we are here to support them during this time of great need."

Luzerne County Manager David Pedri said, "I applaud  the Recovery and Resileincy Task Force, who have focused their attention on what our local businesses need right here and right now,” Pedri said. “Hopefully someday soon, we will be on the other side of this pandemic. These programs will make sure that our businesses that employ so many of our neighbors will be here as well.”

Local funding will be dedicated to five programs:

  1. Bilingual Business Consulting: This initiative will provide small business education and one-on-one consulting services designed to assist business owners with planning for recovery and future resiliency. Eligible businesses (15 full-time employees or less with revenue under $500,000) may apply for this no-cost assistance via the Chamber website or the following link: https://businessassistance.questionpro.com/. Businesses need not be Chamber members to apply.
  2. Online Infrastructure Development: This initiative will provide information technology assistance to existing retail and service businesses to help them meet growing expectations of online/e-commerce, mail order, and delivery. Eligible businesses (15 full-time employees or less with revenue under $500,000) may apply for this no-cost assistance via the Chamber website or the following link: https://businessassistance.questionpro.com/. Businesses need not be Chamber members to apply.
  3. Workforce Development Education Promotion: This initiative will put together a comprehensive marketing plan to promote Workforce Development programs that are available in the Greater Hazleton area that are designed to educate the workers for the post-COVID-19 economy.
  4. Restaurant Marketing and Food Business Incubation: This initiative will include the development and marketing of several food trails to promote Hazleton area restaurants to the public to encourage food purchases, take-out, and use of delivery services. It will also develop programming designed to help food entrepreneurs adjust to changing consumer habits and the needs of the low-touch/low-contact COVID-19 economy. 
  5. Vacant Property Reuse: This initiative will focus on the identification and marketing of vacant commercial property resulting from COVID-19 business closures. It will also including marketing vacant real estate available to businesses from outside the area who have closed as a result of COVID-19 and are looking for lower rents and/or smaller communities within which to reestablish their business.    

Malone said that she is thankful for this funding and the impact it will have in the community. “These initiatives address several of the needs we identified earlier this spring through our Greater Hazleton Small Business COVID-19 Impact Study. They allow us to not only assist businesses in need but also utilize the talents of local professionals.

The Task Force is currently soliciting consultant qualifications to undertake each of the five programs, which must be completed by December 30, 2020. Requests for Qualifications can be found on the Chamber website or the following link: https://www.downtownhazleton.org/request-for-qualifications.html

When the pandemic hit, the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, together with the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, CAN DO, the city and local and regional economic development partners, proactively formed the COVID-19 Recovery & Resiliency Task Force to help coordinate small business recovery efforts and identify new initiatives and programs to help them rebound. This included the Hazleton Area Small Business Emergency Relief Microgrant Program, which provided more than $54,000 of privately funded financial relief to 85 local businesses earlier this summer.

Task Force Members include: Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress (DHAP), CAN DO/CAN BE, Penn State Hazleton LaunchBox, Discover NEPA, The Greater Hazleton Civic Partnership, Wilkes University Small Business Development Center, PA CareerLink-Hazleton, Luzerne/Schuykill Workforce Development Board, the City of Hazleton, Community and Economic Development, and Society of Hispanic Professionals of the Hazleton Area.