By Craig Moorhead
The Caledonia Argus
With help from a couple of key business leaders, the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce is offering assistance for local businesses who may be re-opening their doors soon.
Lock-downs from the pandemic have kept some area businesses shuttered, but that could change before long, Eric Halverson said.
Halverson serves as president of the Caledonia Chamber. “The whole point of this relief grant that we’re putting together is to leverage... donations,” he said last week, “We want to be able to take a pool of money that we can give to these businesses in hopes that, when they open the doors again, it will give them a little bit of help.
“This idea came from from LaVon ‘Spanky’ Felton of Sleepy Hollow Auto,” Halverson reported. The same dealership has supported a similar effort at their Viroqua, Wisconsin branch.
“He (Felton) and Dennis Gavin from Caledonia Haulers have really teamed up to make the initial donations to the Chamber of Commerce for this,” Halverson explained. “So we’re launching what we’re calling the Stronger Together Relief Grant. The project would not have happened without LaVon and Dennis.
“We’re trying to help those that were impacted by COVID-19. If they can open their doors, how can we help them get back to business as they were before? We don’t want to be losing local businesses... Dennis is a huge supporter of Caledonia, and Spanky is now one as well. Those two teamed up, wanting to help the businesses in town survive.
“Since then, we’ve actually had Eitzen [State] Bank agree to provide a donation as well. And the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce has decided to donate some funds, too.”
More local businesses and individuals may come on board at the last minute to help in the effort too, Halverson noted. “We’re not asking for more help, but we will take anything that we can get. In Viroqua, individual community members stepped up. The more money we have, the more we’re going to be able to do.” Speed is essential, “So we don’t want to be out there knocking on doors right now... We’re going to put that money to work the best that we can.
“What we’re doing is taking the funds we have right now, and we’re designing the application. We’re getting it ready to go on our website. When businesses apply, we can have our committee look at A) How much funds do we have? And B) Which businesses have applied for this, and how can we break that out and help them?”
At the time of this report, the Chamber of Commerce already had $12,500 for the program, Halverson reported.
“I’m hoping that the State of Minnesota lets us open businesses up on May 18 so my goal is to get this out there pretty quick... We want to be ready to go then. It’s an incentive to open your doors back up... And the quicker we can act, the better. We want to have those funds available when they open, so we want them to apply ASAP. We don’t want to sit on these funds until July.”
For more information, go to the Caledonia Chamber of Commerce webpage at: caledoniachamberofcommerce.com