Sen. Carper checks in with small business owners as challenges continue

DOVER, Del. – Wednesday afternoon, U.S. Senator Tom Carper met with small business owners and members of the Small Business Administration for a roundtable discussion at Vincenzo’s Pizzeria & Gelato. The topic of discussion: how small businesses are faring as the COVID-19 pandemic starts looking up.

Cautious Optimism

Small business owners say cautious optimism sums it up. “You try to find a way to do things a little differently, and make more investments in your development, and at the same time taking the productivity. In the long run, it helps your business overall,” said John Urquhart, owner of the Bavarian Bakery in Dover.

Sen. Carper tells 47 ABC he was pleased to hear how federal efforts, like grants and loans for small businesses, have helped out locally. “There’s a lot of gratitude that we’ve heard. When we fell into the pandemic, thousands of Delaware businesses were in danger of going out of business,” he said. “They were able to apply for payroll protection loans to be able to save their businesses. In some cases, they were requirement to pay those. In other cases, not.”

Challenges Continue

However, even with government help, small businesses are still dealing with some challenges. Urquhart says over the past few years, he’s seen the price of a bag of flour double. Plus, he is still working to find a way to keep a full staff.

“We’re just trying to find creative ways to counter that, without just passing along higher costs to our customers in the form of higher prices of our goods,” said Urquhart. “The availability of someone who has the right skills and knowledge to come in and add value to your business immediately isn’t necessarily there.”

Sen. Carper says he’s heard those sentiments echoed by other small business owners, time and time again. “There’s a need for workers people who will show up, come to work, and do a good job. As it turns out, there are a number of programs that we have – state, local, and non-profits – designed to provide the workers,” he said. “I think the companies that seem to be the best and most successful, in terms of meeting their workforce needs, are those who train their own, raise their own, and grow their own.”

Sending A Message To Washington

Now, Urquhart and others are hoping Sen. Carper will take what he heard in Dover Wednesday afternoon, back up to Washington D.C. “It’s so they have a sense of what it’s like in our shoes, and propose things that would help alleviate some of the stress on our businesses, so that we can continue to add value in our communities,” he said.

Until then, Sen. Carper is urging small business owners to take advantage of federal help already in place.

“Part of what the Department of Labor is responsible for, is to help train and make sure the workforce needed is provided. Almost every week I hear a business looking for folks to come to work,” said Sen. Carper. “I think we’re doing a much better job, working with our high schools, especially our vocational tech high schools. They’re working with places like Delaware Tech in order to provide the work force skills that are needed. They’re trying to make sure that those connections are happening​.”

“Do what you love.”

And, for those hoping to start their path of entrepreneurship, Urquhart has some key advice: “The one thing that’s really important, is to understand what it is you’re actually trying to do, and then marshaling whatever resources you need around that idea,” he said. “If you do those things, I think you can overall be successful, which is your true intent to do what you want to do. Most importantly, do things that you love.”

Categories: Business, Coronavirus, Delaware, Local News, Money