Friday, March 20, 2020

The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Michigan small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19), SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza announced today. SBA acted under its own authority, as provided by the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act that was recently signed by the President, to declare a disaster following a request received from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on March 17, 2020.

The disaster declaration makes SBA assistance available in the entire state of Michigan; and the contiguous counties of Elkhart, La Porte, Lagrange, St Joseph and Steuben in Indiana; Fulton, Lucas and Williams in Ohio; and Florence, Forest, Iron, Marinette and Vilas in Wisconsin.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist Michigan small businesses with federal disaster loans. We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19),” said Administrator Carranza.

SBA Customer Service Representatives will be available to answer questions about SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and explain the application process.

“Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” said Carranza.

“These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact. Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing,” Carranza added.

Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email for more information on SBA disaster assistance. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 21, 2020.

For more information about Coronavirus, please visit:

For more information about available SBA resources and services, please visit:

We will provide updated information as it becomes available. 

Guidance to Employers Contemplating Layoffs

COVID-19 Announcement  from the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity
State Provides Guidance to Employers Contemplating Potential Layoffs 
LANSING, MICH. The Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity today provided guidance to Michigan employers on how to avoid potential layoffs related to COVID-19.

“We know that many families and businesses are and will experience economic pain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said LEO Director Jeff Donofrio. “Through Governor Whitmer’s executive action and existing state programs, there are resources for employers affected by COVID-19. We are also strongly urging job providers facing work shortages to place their employees on temporary leave as opposed to termination, so that they may remain eligible for potential federal assistance.”

Work Share If employers are financially distressed but hope to continue operations by cutting back hours, they are encouraged to use the Unemployment Insurance Agency’s Work Share program that allows employers to maintain employment levels and business operations during declines in regular business activity rather than laying off workers. More information about the program can be found at

Temporary Leave vs. Termination Due to the uncertainty regarding potential congressional action regarding whether and how furloughed workers will be able to access federal paid sick, family and medical leave resources, employers are strongly urged to place employees on temporary leave and advise the worker that they expect to have work available within 120-days as opposed to termination. There is no additional cost to employers, employees remain eligible for UI benefits through the state, and employees may remain eligible for potential federal assistance.
Steps for employers placing employers on temporary unpaid leave:

  • Do not terminate the employee – specify a temporary/indefinite leave with return to work expected that is within 120 days.
  • Do not create a contractual obligation to bring the employee back to work – Let the employee know that the situation is fluid and subject to change.
  • Provide the employee with a formal Unemployment Compensation Notice. Employers will need to provide their Employer Account Number and Federal Identification Number.  
  • Communicate to the employee about their rights. Under Governor Whitmer’s recent Executive Order, workers are placed on leave, or are unable to work because they are sick, quarantined, immunocompromised, or have an unanticipated family care responsibility, are eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Ensure employers are provided information on how to obtain unemployment insurance benefits. A factsheet can be found here.
  • Get each employee’s up-to-date contact information.
  • Let employees know if you will be putting updated information on the entity’s website or intranet, if applicable.
  • Appoint a single, or limited number of individuals who will field questions, and communicate that information to employees.
  • Keep a tally of all questions and answers. Periodically share with employees.

The state is monitoring issues related to continued medical insurance coverage and will update accordingly.

Elimination of Certain Unemployment Costs to Employers
Under the governor’s order, an employer or employing unit must not be charged for unemployment benefits if their employees become unemployed because of an executive order requiring them to close or limit operations. 

Other Resources
The Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s call center stands ready to support businesses looking for assistance through other available state programs. For more information, visit the MEDC’s website: or call 888.522.0103. The Michigan Small Business Development Center can also provide resources for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Visit their website for additional information.
Governor Whitmer is also seeking additional solutions for small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Earlier this month, Congress passed legislation that makes $1 billion available to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide low-interest loans to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and nonprofits that have suffered substantial economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The governor has informed SBA that she is seeking an Economic Injury Disaster Loan Declaration for the state and has initiated the process to receive the declaration from SBA. Once granted, small businesses in qualifying areas will be able to access low-interest loans through the SBA. In the interim, we are encouraging small businesses that could benefit from SBA loans to start collecting the information they’ll need to complete and submit their application. Examples of information needed can be found here. For additional information or to obtain help preparing the loan application in advance of the declaration, please contact the Michigan SBA offices in Detroit or Grand Rapids.

Information around this outbreak is changing rapidly. The latest information is available at and

Contact: Cindy Hubbell, President/CEO
Irish Hills Regional Chamber of Commerce

Dear Chamber Members:

Ours is a changing world.

With the news of COVID-19, the coronavirus, changing moment by moment, it’s hard to keep up. The NBA and Broadway have gone dark. Students across America are coming home from college, their semesters at school over or broadcast online.

Here in the Irish Hills, life is changing, too. Meetings and events have been cancelled, businesses have ramped up cleaning procedures, our restaurants are take-out only, kids are staying home and all of us are taking precautions where we can.

Here at the Irish Hills Regional Chamber of Commerce, we’re making some of those changes, too, but our mission remains the same: serving our local businesses and the community.

We can’t panic, but we can prepare. And we can begin taking some commonsense steps toward keeping the community, and our employees, safer. At this time:

  • We are cancelling and postponing all meetings and events until April 10, anything after that is tentative.

  • We will keep updating our community via social media and emails.

Local businesses can be of great help to us at times like this. Restaurants and other eateries offer hot, nourishing meals and many have take-out options. Banks can assist with special loan funds. Stores selling food, medical supplies and other necessities are nearby and easily accessible.

I could go on, but know that helping to support local businesses, while always important, is crucial at a time like this. These same businesses are the ones supporting our kids’ fundraisers, the ones where we gather with friends, where the workers know our names. We need them to be around not only next week or next month, but for years to come. Let’s support them, where we are able, to get them through this time.

If you want to support a local business, but maybe belong to an at-risk part of the population, you can purchase a gift certificate now to be used later. Steps like that will enable local businesses to keep paying their staffs – your friends and family members – and keep businesses viable in our community.

I’m sure we’ll be sharing more information in the days and weeks ahead.  Your chamber staff will be available by phone or email. Let us know how we can help. We would like you to keep us updated as to your plans during this time.

Below are some resources we have gathered. 

Stay calm. Stay informed. Support your neighbors.

And let’s all look forward to better times ahead.


Cindy Hubbell, President/CEO
Irish Hills Regional Chamber of Commerce
O: 517-592-8907, C: 517-795-0368

Monday, December 11, 2017

Business Cards Are Not Customers

(blog from ChamberMaster)
Chamber networking events. Some people look forward to them, others may secretly groan when they show up on the schedule. The long and the short of it is: if you’re going to attend, make them count. The key is to have a plan before you even leave the office.
  • Set a goal of how many new contacts and how many previous acquaintances you will make contact with. This keeps you on track to maximize the opportunity.
  • Determine how and when you will follow up with people after the event.
  • Bring extra business cards. (Of course.).
  • Gathering cards is more important than handing out cards. Someone doesn’t have cards? Jot their info on one of yours.
  • Keep a permanent marker with you and jot down what you talked about and your next step (pens don’t write well on business cards).
  • Tell people that you will follow up (and then do). Then they will be more receptive to hearing from you. Plus you’ll be more apt to do it because you said you would.
  • As soon as you leave the event, take a moment to sort through the business cards you collected; rank and categorize them by how they fit into your network and how you can help one another.
  • Don’t just leave the cards you gathered on your desk. Enter them into your database and schedule contact dates in your calendar.
  • Add each new contact to your LinkedIn network.
  • Follow up with a quick email or phone call within 24-48 hours. Schedule this on your calendar. Seriously, set aside the time and make yourself do it. Remember, you told them you would.
  • Share a resource with them–something helpful (e.g. a blog, article, book suggestion, or person they should connect with)--not a sales piece. Give first and expect nothing in return.
  • Make it personal, “It was great meeting you at the Chamber event yesterday. Enjoy your family reunion this weekend.”
  • Following up once may not work. Touch base on a regular basis. You’re simply staying connected. Next time you see them, they’ll (hopefully) remember you.
  • Subscribe to and send a congratulations every time one of your contacts pops up.
  • Invite your new contact to another networking event you will attending. This is a great way to interact with more of your contacts face-to-face.
  • Continue to give and don’t expect reciprocity – it will come on its own. When you’re connecting with someone, you’re communicating with their network. The ideas is to keep your name and what you do at the top of their minds. Your product or service doesn’t have to apply to them, use the strength of that one connection to open many doors. 
Networking is part of business growth, and two important aspects go hand-in-hand:
  1. You’re creating awareness of your brand and your existence
  2. You must capitalize on that awareness through follow up.
To put it bluntly, without follow-up, you’ve wasted the opportunity.

Friday, March 24, 2017


2017 Citizen and Business of the Year Named

      Many members of the Irish Hills business community were honored at the Brooklyn-Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce’s 37th Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner on March 23 at Clark Lake Golf Course.

     Jackie Hubbard of Onsted was recognized as the Citizen of the Year for all she contributes to the Onsted and Irish Hills community.  Columbia Interiors was named 2017 Business of Year as they have been a community-minded anchor business in Brooklyn for 40 years. The Brooklyn Food Pantry was awards the Non-Profit Organization of the Year.  Stoney Green of RE/MAX Mid-Michigan received the Heart of the Community Award for being so charitable and for always being so ready to volunteer.  Hidden Lake Gardens received the Emerald Award—Gem of the Community for being one of the Irish Hills’ amazing hidden gems.

      There were a record number of Spruce Awards given out, eleven total.  Spruce Awards are given to chamber members who have shown  “substantial beatification or renovation” within the last year.  2017 Spruce Award recipients are: Borek Jennings Funeral Home, Brooklyn Sportsman’s Club, Grady’s Catering, Lake Columbia Property Owners Association, Napoleon Community Schools, Phillip Family Chiropractic, Rayba’s Tennis Retreat and Vellucci Vineyards, Salon Rushelle, Village of Onsted and Watkins Lake State Park.

      Many business anniversaries were recognized, from 5 years all the way up to 185 years.  There were special anniversaries that were honored: Brooklyn Lanes (50 years), Killarney Lutheran Campground (60 years), Irish Hills Dairy Bar, Judson Collins Center and Onsted Kiwanis Club (65 years), Walker Tavern Historic Site (95 years) and OSB Community Bank (110 years.  Senator Mike Shirkey presented the Village of Brooklyn with a Governors Tribute for their 185 anniversary.

      Todd Wanty, outgoing board president, presented Dave Turk of Walton Insurance Group with the President’s Award.  Cindy Hubbell gave her Executive Director’s Award to Cori Baumann of Cori B Photography.  The People Choice Award from the Taste of the Irish Hills event was presented to The Pointe Bar & Grill.

      Overall, standout business community members were honored for their efforts in strengthening  the business community and the quality of life in the Irish Hills through tourism, giving back, curb appeal, longevity and economic impact.


Friday, September 9, 2016

Lenawee County's 2016 tourism season up over previous years

Although hard numbers comparing this year to last year still are being tallied, people supported Lenawee County-area businesses and festivals in increasing numbers. That translates into a stronger economy and revenue stream.
This summer season — which ends this weekend — was one of the best economic times in recent memory, officials and business owners around the county have reported.
Although hard numbers comparing this year to last year still are being tallied, people supported Lenawee County-area businesses and festivals in increasing numbers. That translates into a stronger economy and revenue stream.
From the Faster Horses three-day country music festival at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn to the Rockin’ the Hills craft beer festival at Manitou Beach, people came to Lenawee County, or stayed local, in increasing numbers.
Tourism traffic also was up at Hayes State Park in northern Lenawee County, park manager Jim O’Brien said.
“We did exceptionally well this season,” he said. “We are up, revenue-wise, about 16 percent over last year, and attendance is up considerably as well.”
The economy, as well as favorable weather, O’Brien said, were contributing factors.
“The beach is a huge draw and one of our improvements is a partnership with the Irish Hills Dairy offering concessions there,” he said.
The use of rental boats and rafts also are up, O’Brien said, and the park’s two boat launches “are getting a great deal of usage.”
Economic officials weigh in
Justin Gifford, executive director of the Lenawee County Conference and Visitors Bureau in Adrian, said tourism interest in the area is rising, and three of the six main hotels in the area have reported occupancy increases this year.
“There is an increased interest from tourists and vendors for the larger events in the county,” Gifford said, with music, beer and wine and the arts becoming more popular categories.
“Faster Horses is continually growing, and the craft beer and wine scene has brought in a lot of outside interest,” he said. “It will be interesting to see what happens next year.”
One tourism idea the bureau is examining is bringing bus tours to Lenawee County.
“We’re currently working on tour bus interests here and working with two groups from Ohio to cater to the tour group market,” Gifford said. “We would like to see more tour groups here, something that would take two to three years to grow. We’re seeing lots of interest in our area from Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Wisconsin and Minnesota, not just Ohio and Indiana.”
Although hard data on local economic numbers has not been available in the past, Gifford said he will examine tourism data with Michigan State University economic officials as part of a strategic plan to “allow us as the Lenawee County Conference and Visitors Bureau to provide statistics.”
At any given time during the day, Tecumseh Economic Development Director Paula Holtz said, her city’s sidewalks “see more shoppers than before.”
“With a new brew pub, an ice cream shop open in the evening, antiques and vintage stores,” Holtz said, “Tecumseh is truly becoming a destination town.”
Being part of the state’s “Pure Michigan” campaign is paying off, Holtz said.
“When we talk to people who come visit Tecumseh,” she said, “we’re finding many come from the downriver area and up for a day trip.”
With more downtown apartments becoming available, Holtz said, “it all ties together to make a better economy.”
Brooklyn-Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce Director Cindy Hubbell said phone calls to her office asking about local things to do “have not slowed down all summer.”
“ ‘I’d like to come to the Irish Hills’ is the statement I hear most when people call,” Hubbell said. “They are looking for accommodations, places to eat, events, recommended day trips, shopping and lake recreation.”
She said the number of inquiries by out-of-town visitors has “more than doubled over last year.”
“Lots of families are looking for things to do, spending quality time,” she said.
Hudson City Manager Steve Hartsel said “multiple people” have been coming to the municipal office asking about coming to office asking about things to do in the area.
“We’ve never had that kind of foot traffic before,” he said. “Visitors are coming in, asking about our walking trails and places to shop.”
Business owners: Tourism, support up
Robin Sagenak, owner of Rob’s Rentals at Manitou Beach, said the 2016 season, “has been our busiest season yet.”
But things have changed. He said incoming tourists are no longer just from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, compared to when he opened his watercraft rental business five years ago.
“We’ve seen an influx of people coming to our area from New York, California, Florida,” he said, “and I see a lot of people making ties from when they grew up here — they’re grandparents bringing their grandchildren and younger families checking out the area.”
B.J. Andonian, owner of Jerry’s Pub and Restaurant along Wamplers Lake, said his business “had a great summer.”
“We are up about 10 percent over last year,” he said. “It’s been perfect summer weather.”
Menu changes, a “great staff” at the restaurant and “second-to-none” quality of life in the Irish Hills, Andonian said, have helped make his business a “destination spot.”
And customers sometimes talk more than just visiting the area.
“We’ve had a lot more people inquiring about houses for sale in the area,” Andonian said.
That’s where Darlene Heller, owner of Devils Lake View Living in the Manitou Beach village district, comes in. She said she estimates business at her shop has increased approximately 15 percent over last year.
She credits new events and the farmers market at the lake for creating a larger, happier economic picture there.
“The word has spread about the village and redevelopment of the community,” Heller said.
The summer also has been good for Susan Serafin, owner of Dip Stix and Stuff in Tecumseh. Some of that, she said, comes from a new partnership with Pentamere Winery.
“Even weekdays are better than they have been in the last couple years,” Serafin said, who opened her business in Tecumseh five years ago and joined forces with the winery two years ago.
“When people found out we have a gourmet food shop here, they liked the idea of pairing wine and foods together,” Serafin said. “They’re wanting items specifically for wine tasting.”
With gas prices moving downward, Serafin said, Tecumseh is becoming more and more of a destination town.
“Our majority of visiting customers are from Bowling Green and Toledo, Ohio; Monroe, Jackson and Detroit,” she said.


Friday, February 26, 2016

And the winner is....

36th Annual Meeting & Awards Dinner

Last Thursday was the Brooklyn-Irish Hills Chamber of Commerce’s 36th Annual Meeting and Awards Dinner at Clark Lake Golf Course, sponsored by our Board of Directors.  That you to our contributors; Cori B Photography and Mid-Michigan DJ’s. Also, thanks to Clark Lake Golf Course for such a great meal, we heard nothing but good reviews. 

What a great night with an amazing group of people.  The whole evening was filled with laughter, hugs, tears of joy, applause and even standing ovations.  The people that lead our Irish Hills business community are “good people”.  That is stealing words from Senator Mike Shirkey’s closing words and our Citizen of the Year, Mark Berry.  You “Gotta Have Good People”, and we sure do.  The Irish Hills business community is made up of a group of people that truly care about each other and their community.  The Chamber of Commerce is an organization that not only promotes them and strengthens our business community, but is a place where they can network with each other; sharing ideas, support, and common goals.  The Awards Dinner was an evening about honoring those members who have stood out with their efforts to strengthen our business community and the quality of life in the Irish Hills, whether it is longevity, giving back, curb appeal or economic impact. 

We started the evening off by accepting Mitchell Ramsey of Irish Hills Realty, Jan Witte of Jan’s Dance Connection, Brad Denning of Village Barber Shop and Annette Dupuie of Sacred Touch Massage Therapy to a 3 year term on the Board of Directors. Board President, Todd Wanty presented his President’s Award to Michelle Reed of Walton Reed Wealth Management Partners.  The Ambassador Award, presented by chairperson Morgan Graves of Brooklyn Eye Center went to Darlene Heller of Devils Lake View Living.  Quite a few anniversary awards were handed out, with some of the highest honors going to Brooklyn Party Shop—50 years, Walton Insurance Group—65 years, Brooklyn Products Int’l--65 years, The Beach Bar—70 years, Morris W. Smith Insurance Agency—70 years, Clarklake Yacht Club—85 years, Brooklyn American Legion Post #315—95 years and The Exponent—135 years. 

Spruce Awards were given to TED Ranch Campground, Columbia Township, Boot Jack Tavern, Walker Tavern Historic Site, Columbia School District, Rob’s Rental, Harold’s Place and Village of Brooklyn DPW.  Our Emerald Award—Gem of the Community was presented to Manitou Beach Village.  The Heart of the Community Award was presented to Misty Bliven, owner of Patrone’s Day Spa & Salon.  Business of the Year for 2016 is Irish Hills Collision and the 2016 Citizens of the Year are Mark & Cheryl Berry of Mid-America Machining. 

One of my favorite quotes of the evening was from Jeff Updike of Irish Hills Collision, “You just simply work hard every day, and you all know what I mean.  It is truly an honor to be recognized for it.”

Please remember how important it is to support our local businesses, as they are who help make our community what it is today, supporting and strengthening the Irish Hills we have all come to love.