Our roving camera seems to have taken more than its fair share of pictures recently of local businesses that are shutting down. So we thought it might be a good idea to ask Maura O’Brien, head of the Wellesley Chamber of Commerce, how things are going from her point of view.
Despite the economic downturn, the Chamber has had positive things to focus on of late, including the grand opening of California Pizza Kitchen, a meeting on social media marketing and the chamber’s recent awards ceremony for local businesses (J.S. Waterman & Sons & Waring took home the prize as Business of the Year). Here’s O’Brien’s take on a few things:
* How the Shop Wellesley First Initiative has worked out: “Our short-term expectations were that the program would raise local consciousness of local businesses’ contributions and needs. To that extent it has been very successful. Residents who hear about the program are positive and understand the connection between a thriving business community and community vitality as a whole. It’s difficult to measure how much less spending in Wellesley might have occurred if not for the Shop Wellesley First initiative. Prior to the Q4 economic downturn, anecdotally, retailers were telling us that business was up from the previous year. These are not publicly traded corporations, so detailed financial data is not available.
* Any inkling of what sorts of businesses might be headed for Wellesley? As for specific new businesses moving into town, including Linden Square, we do not receive word until after any leases are signed. That news tends to be made public at the same time.
* On whether the Chamber is seeing more action in light of business people feeling the need to network during the downturn: Yes, we have enjoyed an uptick in interest in Chamber membership and programs. Not surprising since the Chamber is particularly relevant for businesses during challenging times like these. Elaine Bannigan of Pinnacle Residential Properties and chair of the Chamber’s board, acknowledged the tough times faced by many businesses in her remarks to our members at the awards dinner, as well as the ways the Chamber assists members to meet those challenges: “Today, business owners not only find ourselves in the position of restructuring budgets and revising our business plans, we also find ourselves with the responsibility for boosting our employees morale, as well as providing reassurance for our families. And,…all the while, we need to maintain good spirits for clients, customers and friends…”