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Sonoma County Go Local extends business pandemic help program into 2021; Marin County plans recovery strategy

Sonoma County GO LOCAL announced June 1 it’s extending another round of coronavirus pandemic relief, granting businesses matching funds for advertising.

“There are a lot of businesses now holding back from advertising because of financial constraints, but they need to promote,” said Janeen Murray of GO LOCAL, a Sonoma County business advocacy group.

The timing is important, since the U.S. Small Business Administration also reported recently that it is closing the Paycheck Protection Program. PPP funding has propped up small businesses across the nation with nearly $800 billion in economic relief designed to allow them to keep their payrolls afloat. More than 8 million jobs were saved in the program, the SBA claimed.

Last year, GO LOCAL gave Santa Rosa-based Cheryl Teach Music owner Cheryl Franklin, a 54-year veteran to music instruction, a $1,000 grant, a fund she matched with Go Local. The advocacy group is a membership-based organization that assists small businesses with their advertising efforts.

Franklin believes her $200-a-year membership is well spent, even if money represents a chance encounter for someone who just wants to share her passion.

“I started playing music in my mom’s tummy,” she said of her musician mother. “Money, to me, just happens when it needs to.”

Still, Franklin knows the power of advertising — even if in her business, the results were hard to measure.

Last year, the organization secured $22,000 in pilot funding for 33 local businesses trying to get over the hump of government shutdowns and customers reluctant to go out amid a pandemic. The effort was sponsored by about a handful of companies who wanted to help others, including Exchange Bank, Summit State Bank, Poppy Bank, SOMO Village and Clover Sonoma.

“As part of the Clover Cares giveback program, we have supported North Bay businesses for three generations. With the challenges of a pandemic, our community needed additional support, which is why we supported GO LOCAL’s Local Business Recovery Fund,” Clover Sonoma Chief Revenue Officer Kristel Corson told the Business Journal.

The goal for 2021 is to rake in $75,000 from local sponsors wanting to help other companies.

“We’re hoping other companies not as impacted (by the pandemic) to take advantage of being a sponsor,” Murray said.

The group will start the application process in August at golocal.coop/recovery21 and decide on the recipients shortly thereafter.

Terri Erickson, who runs Automotive Excellence in Rohnert Park, used the money last year for a radio commercial among other means of promotion.

“It allowed us to spend money in other places (not normally used),” Erickson told the Business Journal. According to Erickson: “The bottom line is, none of this is or would be possible” without the funding.

The auto repair business joined Cheryl Teach Music, along with Olde Towne Jewelers and Kindred Fair Trade, as funding recipients.

At the same time Sonoma County launched its program, Marin County announced it had secured $130,820 in federal grant money to assist funding a strategic plan to help its small businesses recover.

Working with the Marin Economic Forum, the county is developing an economic vitality strategic plan to help retain jobs in the region, strengthen businesses financial stability and create new opportunities through investments and diversifying efforts. The plan is due to be completed by the end of the year.

Marin County supervisors Damon Connolly and Judy Arnold, while serving on an economic committee, have been meeting with chambers of commerce and business leaders early on to draft a plan for the business community to survive the pandemic.

“Many businesses are still working to address the impacts of COVID-19, and we now have an opportunity to think strategically about how we can enhanced and support equitable and sustainable businesses,” Marin Economic Forum CEO Mike Blakeley said in a statement.

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