Westerly Sun: Chamber secures grant to help local businesses for 'Take it Outside' | Rhode Island Commerce

Originally appearing: https://www.thewesterlysun.com/news/covid-19/chamber-secures-grant-to-help-local-businesses-for-take-it-outside/article_f7aeffc4-0741-11eb-a201-17fa5f69d596.html
By: Daniel Faulkner
Posted: Monday, October 5, 2020

WESTERLY — A $55,000 grant from the state’s economic development agency to the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce is being used to buy more than 100 heat lamps, tents, tables, and other items to help businesses meet their customers outdoors, where experts say COVID-19 is less likely to spread.

The chamber delivered heat lamps on Monday afternoon to Amigos Taqueria Y Tequila restaurant on High Street and Noodle Revolution on Oak Street, and they had planned to deliver more to other locations later in the day.

“We saw this grant as an exciting and tangible way that we can provide additional support services to the business community. This year, businesses needed their Chamber of Commerce to get way out ahead of them, remove obstacles to their success and show them the path forward to survive and thrive,” Konicki said. “I am so delighted that we were successful at securing this grant and we can’t wait to get these much needed supplies out to them.”

The grant, from Commerce Rhode Island, is part of Gov. Gina Raimondo’s “Take it Outside” initiative, which encourages businesses in the state to conduct as many activities as possible outdoors.

“As we enter the fall, it’s important that we help businesses extend the outdoor season and continue to reduce the rate of transmission,” said Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor in a news release. “We were encouraged by applicants’ creativity in proposing so many clever and practical ways to help businesses overcome COVID- and climate-related challenges. We thank all of the organizations that applied and are finding ways to take it outside and keep commerce going.”

The 41 awarded intermediary organizations will use the funds to cover the cost of purchasing items such as chairs, tables, heat lamps and tents, as well as executing al fresco economic opportunities such as wintertime markets.

The chamber plans to use some of the equipment during Sunday Fundays, weekly events during which downtown businesses and others offer their services, retail items, and food outdoors on High Street. Vehicular traffic is blocked on a section of the roadway and live music is featured in the later afternoon and early evening.

The chamber’s grant includes funds for 105 heat lamps, 39 10×10 tents, 40 folding chairs and six plastic folding tables. Six of the tents will be used by the chamber to help businesses that are not located on High Street  establish a “pop-up” presence at the Sunday Funday events or other outdoor markets.

The Sunday Funday effort is scheduled to run through the end of the month, but could continue if additional event sponsors are found and town officials approve, Konicki said. She said she would not be surprised to see businesses, especially restaurants, continue offering outdoor dining and other services into November or December.

Some businesses have reported doubling or tripling the revenue they make on a regular Sunday because of the Sunday Fundays, Konicki said.

Konicki wrote the 21-page grant and the Ocean Community Chamber of Commerce was the first organization in the state to respond to a request for proposals, according to the news release. None of the grant funds will benefit the chamber itself.

Grant recipients were selected following a review process in which Commerce RI received 85 applications requesting a total of $5.7 million in grant funding. Raimondo recently announced that the total Take It Outside grant budget will be increased from $1 million to $5 million due to a high level of interest. The deadline for a  second round of grant applications is Thursday.