In the wake of the devastating mass shooting tragedy that unfolded on October 25, 2023, claiming 18 lives and impacting hundreds in the Lewiston Auburn region, the Lewiston Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (LA Metro Chamber) and its Foundation rallied its resources to address the economic fallout. The Chamber spearheaded fundraising activities to support local businesses affected by the lockdowns and closures during the aftermath, with significant financial support from Blue Triton Brands, owner of local employer Poland Spring Water.

The heart of the relief efforts lies in the Small Business Relief Fund, an initiative designed to alleviate the economic burdens faced by area small businesses. The Fund received an overwhelming response, with Phase 1 garnering 91 eligible submissions. Awards totaling $89,900 were swiftly distributed to businesses in Lewiston, Auburn, Lisbon, and Turner. Notably, the Chamber maintained a commitment to a rapid turnaround, with Phase 1 awards commencing within 10 business days of the application process.
Building on the success of Phase 1, Phase 2 witnessed 36 eligible submissions, reflecting the significant need for support. Requests totaling $1.6 million ranged from $1,000 to $375,000, with an average request of $45,000. The Chamber is proud to highlight the success of reaching underrepresented business owners, with 44% of applicants coming from historically marginalized groups, including women and people of color. The majority of requests came from businesses with 10 or fewer employees (77%), predominantly from the food and beverage (50%) and retail (14%) sectors.

The Grant Review Committee, responsible for allocating Phase 2 funds, is set to convene from February 7th to 14th, with a goal to notify businesses and award funds by February 23rd. The Committee is poised to allocate more than $460,000 to Phase 2 Grant Applicants. The entire timeline, from designing the grant program to processing requests and making awards, will have transpired in less than 10 weeks—a testament to the Chamber’s leadership, the commitment of Auburn Savings Bank, and collaboration with stakeholders including the economic development staff at Maine DECD, the Cities of Auburn and Lewiston, and the Town of Lisbon.

Beyond direct grants, the Chamber has leveraged donated funds to uplift the entire business community through shared marketing and promotion efforts. Notable initiatives include $10,500 in digital and radio advertising for the #LocalLAFlavor campaign and contest, targeting visitors and food enthusiasts in 48 communities surrounding Androscoggin County. Further marketing efforts through early spring will spotlight local food, beverage, and entertainment businesses, featuring a new #LocalLAFlavor is for Lovers contest and active participation in Maine Restaurant Week.

“We are grateful for the Chamber’s work with the Small Business Fund, and proud to have contributed the initial $500,000 to seed the fund and an additional $100,000 to address the recovery needs of so many local businesses,” said Joey Bergstein, President & CEO of BlueTriton Brands.
The LA Metro Chamber remains steadfast in its commitment to rebuilding and revitalizing the community, demonstrating the resilience and unity of the Lewiston-Auburn region during challenging times.

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