Positively Impacting Our County: A Look Behind The Recovery Lancaster Project

Article has been updated as of 9/7/2021

This year has been anything but ordinary – and situations like a global pandemic engulfing our way of life calls for extraordinary collaboration. Lancaster County was up for the challenge, and a variety of organizations, individuals, and companies created plans, developed funding options, purchased equipment, offered free resources, and more, to ensure that many small businesses were able to sustain operations successfully. 

The Recovery Lancaster project was, and continues to be, a monumental initiative to help get the County back to business safely and effectively. 

Meet those behind this highly collaborative project and learn more about how it will continue moving forward.

Crucial Collaboration

What began as a collaborative effort by the Lancaster Chamber, the Economic Development Company, and the County of Lancaster to develop an economic recovery plan for our County, grew to include over 120 volunteers, a robust PPE distribution plan, funding opportunities, public health tips, and much more. 

The Leadership team of Recovery Lancaster is composed of Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber, Lisa Riggs, President of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, Ray D’Agostino—County Commissioner—from the County of Lancaster, and Robert Macina from Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health

“Recovery Lancaster was, and continues to be, the central hub for all information pertaining to the Economic Recovery Plan that was created to assist Lancaster County’s small businesses ­– the heartbeat of our community,’’ said Lancaster Chamber President and CEO Tom Baldrige. “The collaborative effort was truly incredible, and continues to push forward as we monitor what happens next for this plan, our business community, and Lancaster County at large. While there is still work to be done, this initiative greatly impacted many businesses in a variety of industries to stabilize in a time of challenge.”

RecoveryLancaster.com is the website where businesses and organizations could find information on grant funding, personal protective equipment (PPE), public health issues, data analysis, and other information related to the Lancaster County Economic Recovery Plan, prepared by the EDC and the Chamber and approved by the Board of Lancaster County Commissioners in May, through the allocation of $33.4 million in CARES Act Funding. 

“In this period of extraordinary uncertainty and anxiety, a significant silver lining has been the amazing way Lancaster County’s business community has stepped up to volunteer, to provide resources, to share and critique ideas and to stay focused through the Recovery Lancaster initiative,” said Lisa Riggs, President of the Economic Recovery Company of Lancaster County. “This spirit of service and the notion of the greater good continues to be needed as we look at the weeks and months ahead, particularly as the economic fall out on certain segments of our community becomes increasingly clear.” 

“Lancaster County is blessed with a spirit and tradition of collaboration,” said Ray D’Agostino, County Commissioner. “This is what makes us unique and able to be successful as a community in good times and able to overcome challenges in trying times. It is especially important because we each have roles to play, building on our expertise and experience, which when combined and not duplicated, is so powerful. We are proud of the public-private partnership between the Chamber, EDC, and County, to form Recovery Lancaster. Particularly during a crisis, when time is of the essence. The countless hours of volunteers and staff, between all for our organizations, created a seamless effort to help our struggling businesses, labor force, families and community as a whole. Thank you to all who helped, putting the needs of others ahead of themselves, Lancaster continues to be a model for others to follow.”

Several County agencies, departments, and individuals, participated in the effort including the County Purchasing Department, Emergency Management Agency, a Public Health Emergency Advisor, the IT Department, Budget Services, the Chief Clerk and Solicitor, and so many others in this effort. Many jumped in to take on the additional work with Recovery Lancaster volunteers and staff with an abundance of professionalism that helped this initiative push forward. In addition, many organizations, including all regional Lancaster County Chambers and a variety of local economic development efforts, did a remarkable job at pushing the message out. Find all of our partner organizations at www.recoverylancaster.com/partners.

Assembling Teams

Due to the expansiveness of the project, it was critical to put together teams that leveraged local knowledge and expertise. These internal teams focused on Funding, Business Guidance (including how to best get businesses resources, legal help, and personal protective equipment), Public Health, Economic Analysis, and Communications. 

The funding team, Team 1, was led by Brett Tennis, Principal at Walz Group, Heather Valudes, Vice President at the Lancaster Chamber, and Lyle Hosler, Vice President at the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County. The rest of the team consisted of Tina Campbell, ASSETS, Josh Cohen, McNees, Wallace & Nurick, Julie Fulmer, Walz Group, Todd Harrington, Trout CPAs, Kelly Kundratic, TeamPA, Kaitlin Funke, Walz Group, and Angel Rosario, Community First Fund.

In addition, both the Walz Group and Trout CPAs provided considerable additional volunteers and team members who made the Small Business Recovery and Sustainability Fund effort possible, including summer interns who received a tremendous hands-on experience.

“I am grateful to all of our local volunteers for their countless hours in developing and executing Phase 1 and 2 of the Recovery Lancaster small business grant program,” said Brett Tennis, Principal at Walz Group. “Our mission was to get grant funds out quickly and equitably to those businesses who needed support in recovering from the prolonged shutdown. Those whose scores indicated greatest need for working capital and/or retrofit were awarded the funds. We also ensured that all available federal, state, local, and private funding resources were known to the community. This mission continues to help Lancaster County recover and move forward.” 

Although the two funding phases have ended, businesses and organizations are encouraged to still check www.recoverylancaster.com/funding for other grant and loan resources from state, local, and federal levels. There is a possibility of another local funding phase on the horizon through Recovery Lancaster as well so stay tuned.

The Public Health Team, Team 2, was led by Ed Hurston, County Health Advisor, Danene Sorace, Mayor of the City of Lancaster, and Hilda Shirk, a retired Lancaster Healthcare Executive. The team also included Phil Colvin, Lancaster County Emergency Management, Dr. Joe Degenhard, WellSpan Ephrata, Alisa Jones, Lancaster Health Center, Dr. Jeff Martin, Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health, Mim Shirk, Anabaptist Providers Group, Marty Siegel, Barley Snyder, Todd Snovel, PA College of Art and Design, and Barb Husken, communications liaison.

“Our team’s main objective is to consider the public health implications of operating a business in the midst of possible spread of Covid-19 by offering information and support to assure a safe environment for workers and consumers,” said Hilda Shirk, retired Lancaster Healthcare Executive. “We have been sharing information about the status of community spread in the County and the preparedness of health providers and facilities to offer public health services to our businesses and residents. The recovery of businesses is dependent upon the entire community’s willingness to help stop community spread of covid by adhering to good public health practices – wearing a mask in public, maintaining social distance, washing hands, and staying home when sick. I am so thankful for the volunteers and professionals we have on this health team to ensure we strategize a healthy, safe way forward.”

Team 2 offered, and continues to maintain, an abundance of resources regarding contract tracing, safe workplaces, and more. Discover more at www.recoverylancaster.com/health

The “New Business Normal” team, Team 3, was led by Mark Lauriello, CEO at Rettew, Andrea Shirk, General Manager at Rock Lititz, Ezra Rohman, Manager of Economic Development Strategies at EDC, and John Biemiller, Director at EDC. The team also included Scott Fiore, Tristarr Staffing, Darryl Gordon, High Companies, Tom Palisin, The Manufacturer’s Association, Brett Jackson, Brubaker Connaughton Goss & Lucarelli LLC, and Sarah Maser, the Lancaster Chamber.

This “New Business Normal’’ team also sourced expertise from community leaders to help provide business guidance and insight into industry segments that included Healthcare (non-health system), Retail, Accommodations, Restaurants, Construction, Manufacturing, and Workforce. The leaders were Liz Prada, Lancaster Cleft Pallet Clinic, Mannie Lamichane, LOA Orthodontics, Chris Fisher, PA Health Association, Michelle Rondinelli, Kitchen Kettle Village, Tim Santoro, GIANT, Marshall Snively, Lancaster City Alliance, Eric Scott, Oak Tree Development Group, Lee Wager, High Hotels, Christina Turley, Hotel Rock Lititz, Diane Pollion, Willow Valley, Mara Sultan, Discover Lancaster, John Smucker, Bird-In Hand Corporation, Mick Owens, Mick’s Restaurants, Al Duncan, Thomas E. Strauss, Jack Depew, Stubbys, Rob Commero, St. Boniface Brewery, Dave Sload, ABC Keystone, Mike Callahan, Jr. & Sr., Benchmark Construction, Brian Reichert, High Industries, Matthew Whipple, Wohlsen, Dan Ott, D. Ott Construction, Genise Wade, Ultra Herley, Melissa Devitz, Burnham Holdings, Bob Zigment, Zook Molasses/L&S Sweeteners, Nelson Longenecker, Four Seasons Produce, Cathy Rychalsky, Lancaster County Workforce Development Board, Glenn Farrell, Lumsden Corporation, Rachel Gallagher, Brookfield Properties/ Park City Mall, Amanda Killian, Trustmark Benefits, Manny Lamichane, LOA Orthodontics, Joe McMonagle, Atomic Design, Kami Patrick, Nordstrom, and Kathy Prime, High Industries

“Our mission to start was to assess the impact of the intersection of public health and normal business operations, knowing that the environment had changed,” said Andrea Shirk, General Manager at Rock Lititz. “Businesses were being hit with so much information, yet that information was changing and it differed by industry. We also knew right away how important personal protective equipment was – and that for many companies, it was hard to figure out what types of PPE they needed and then how to get it. Rolling out a county-wide PPE program – which may have been the first of its kind anywhere on the scale we did – was a huge lift that showcased Lancaster County’s focus on getting businesses back up and running safely.”  

Business and organizations are encouraged to visit www.recoverylancaster.com/business-guidance/ to check out information specific to key industries in Lancaster County. 

The Economic Analysis team, Team 4, focused on grounding economic recovery plans in good analysis and developing tools to help forecast future needs. Initial signals came from weekly and monthly unemployment data. That information was further grounded by the team sharing other data sources and reaching out into the community to talk to industry representatives to get real-time, on-the ground validation. This team was led by Bob Zorbaugh, CEO of LCSWMA, Naomi Young, Director of EDC’s Center for Regional Analysis, and Larry George, Chief Clerk, County of Lancaster. The team also included Bob Koechig, Trout CPAs, Rod Messick, Berkshire Hathaway, Dave Peck, Industrial Resolution, Ann Valuch, Thaddeus Stevens, and Tony Gorick, communications liaison.

The last team is Team 5, the Communications team. This team served as the vehicle to reach out to businesses of all sizes in all parts of the County and ensure they were aware of the resources available to assist them during the height of uncertainty through to today. 

“It was extremely important to have a strong Communications team to ensure all the other teams’ work through Recovery Lancaster was getting out to businesses in the County,” said Tony Gorick, Creative Services Manager at the Lancaster Chamber. “From billboards, to TV ads, to paid digital advertising, to print marketing, to translated pieces, we wanted to be sure we got the message of this initiative out to everyone.”

The team was led by Tony Gorick, Creative Services Manager at the Lancaster Chamber, Mike Reynolds, General Manager of the Lancaster Barnstormers, Alison Van Harskamp, Director of Corporate Communications at Armstrong Flooring, and Barb Huesken, Communications Professional. At the beginning of the initiative, Team 5 sourced help from a variety of local leaders to kickstart the communications plan. These leaders included Adam Aurand, School District of Lancaster, Tracy Cutler, Lancaster County Community Foundation, Ross Kramer, Listrak, Sarah Long, Discover Lancaster, Katie Sandoe, LCSWMA, Ryan Martin, Infantree, and Anne Williams, Lancaster City Alliance.

Team 5 then contracted creative agencies to help promote the message including MAKE/films, Infantree, Scheffey, Namespark, PhotOle Photography, and Improve & Grow.

“During such a destabilizing time of isolation and uncertainty, it was gratifying to find purpose with others who also care about this community and the businesses that make our County so special,” said Alison Van Harskamp, Director of Corporate Communications at Armstrong Flooring. “Recovery Lancaster is what resilience looks like, and it’s a privilege to play a part in it.”

Most teams were coordinating on a daily basis during the early stages of May and June, with weekly team calls that continued through August.  Many of the volunteers included here had periods of time when they logged up to nearly full-time hours assisting on critical phases of the Recovery Lancaster programs, given the incredible urgency to deliver products and services to businesses in need. 

It was also really important to the team that all of the communication and content was translated into Spanish for ease of access. Cinthia Kettering, owner of CMK Global Consulting LLC, volunteered to translate all of the content, from graphics to documents, into Spanish for the project. She was an incredible resource for this initiative.

All teams continue to convene when needed, and all teams meet collectively as a large group once a month to ideate as to how Recovery Lancaster needs to look moving forward now and into 2021.

The Importance Of The Impact: Funding Initiatives

One of the most prominent elements of Recovery Lancaster was the plan to distribute grants to small businesses. This funding occurred in two rounds, one that opened for businesses with 20 and fewer employees in mid-June and the second round, which opened in mid-July for businesses from 0-100 employees. 

“If it wasn’t for Recovery Lancaster and the EDC, we are not sure where our business would be right now,” said Carissa Ressler, Studio Director at Kairos Massage and Skin Care. “Based on the phase one Recovery Lancaster grant and the PIDA loan we received, we have been able to focus on what matters most to us, which is providing caring for our community and attending to the mental health of our nine staff members as they transition back into a new and completely different routine. The blessing that the funds have provided to us will never be forgotten and we continue to be grateful for those working hard to help business in Lancaster County recovery and thrive.” 

The Small Business Recovery & Sustainability Fund deployed a total of $27,786,021.26 dollars into the community over its two phases. Eligible businesses used the funds for working capital and to cover expenses related to public health retrofit improvements.

In total, 939 businesses were awarded a grant. The goal of the two phases of funding was to ensure companies from diverse industries across all of Lancaster County had access to the application. Special attention was given to ensure resources – such as paper applications, information translated into Spanish and call-in assistance – was available for companies who needed extra help to get an accurate application submitted. As a result of this focused outreach, applications were received from every municipality, from industries ranging from agriculture to manufacturing to health care and retail, and funds were awarded to a significant proportion of women and diverse-owned businesses.   

“This pandemic sent a tsunami-like crash on our linen business,” said Claudia Himes, Owner of Special Occasions & Queen Street Linens. “We built a decent lifeboat to weather a year at thirty-five percent of our original projections. The Recovery Lancaster grant shored up our boat and gave us oars. We can see April from here.”

The owner of Caribbean Wave restaurant feels similarly. 

“We are sincerely grateful for your support and faith in the small businesses of Lancaster,” said Damian Cavalo, Owner of Caribbean Wave Jamaican Jerk Restaurant. “When we started our restaurant, our main goal was to bring love and good food to the people of Lancaster. This grant will further our commitment to the people of Lancaster and allow us to continue our original mission. I can’t completely express how grateful I am for this help.”

In addition to the first round of funding, a variety of other funds through the program brought the total amount of money invested in Lancaster County businesses to $49 million!

Ensuring Businesses Are Prepared: COVID-19 Kits

A second prominent aspect of Recovery Lancaster was the bulk purchase and distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to businesses across the County, all provided at no charge to businesses. Significant credit goes to the Lancaster County Purchasing Department, whose expertise and timeliness secured key quantities of much-sought after items in May based on the identification of quantities and elements from Team 2. A huge step was the development of a user-friendly registration portal so businesses could sign up easily to receive a PPE kit and get it delivered to their doorstep. This important piece of the puzzle was contributed by Lancaster-based Listrak, with Brian Iovino leading the effort to create an ordering system that connected to the RecoveryLancaster.com website and interfaced with distribution vendor The Jay Group.

From the outside, the hope was that it looked like a seamless, easy to use option for business. From the inside, it was an extraordinary orchestration of key talent, feverish activities and information sharing and an emotional push to get it done at a time when the Governor’s restrictions were easing and PPE was in high demand.    

Andrea Shirk, General Manager of Rock Lititz personally created the algorithm for the COVID-19 Kit sign-up portal, while Clair and Tait stored huge amounts of PPE while they waited for distribution. The H&H Group and High Industries printed user manuals in English and Spanish that were included in each kit. Approximately 30 companies were recruited to serve as guinea pigs to test the system before it went live. TriStarr Staffing provided ample amount of staff time to help test the system to ensure it was ready to go before it launched. 

“Looking out for our community has always been a part of Clair Global’s mission, so when Recovery Lancaster asked if we would be willing to help deliver PPE to local businesses and school districts, we were more than happy to lend a hand,” said Troy Clair, President & CEO of Clair Global. To help reopen schools safely, Clair Global and Tait drivers delivered over 200 pallets of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to all of the sixteen school districts in Lancaster County, along with IU13.

Over 8,000 kits were distributed across Lancaster County to a variety of businesses and nonprofits. 

“Since the early weeks of the global pandemic, Rock Lititz has been focused on how to offer support and safety to everyone within the Rock Lititz community. Through those experiences and our trademark spirit of collaboration, it was a natural fit for Rock Lititz to expand its support to Lancaster County’s businesses and schools through Recover Lancaster, working to get us all back to work and school in the safest possible environments,” said Andrea Shirk, General Manger at Rock Lititz.

The kits were invaluable to businesses around the County. 

“The Covid-19 Kit was amazing,” said Emily Drobnock, Owner of Knock Knock Boutique in Elizabethtown. “My employees and I have utilized the masks, hand sanitizer, and thermometer as we reopen and continue to navigate these rocky waters. During a time when hand sanitizer was at a premium, and when funds were low, we were thankful to receive this life-saving bundle.”

Others felt similarly. 

“The PPE kits we received were extremely helpful and we were so glad Recovery Lancaster offered a second round of them,” said Ron Daggett, Owner of Brick Heads shop. “All of the items within the kit are amazing, but especially the reusable masks we received! They are by far the most comfortable masks we’ve ever worn. We are very thankful!”

Local Businesses Stepping Up

In addition to businesses like the Walz Group, Trout CPAs, Clair Global, TAIT, High Industries, and Listrak all providing notable in-kind contributions, a whole team of creative agencies were contracted to ensure effective and widespread communication regarding what Recovery Lancaster offered to businesses and organizations.

These businesses included Infantree, who developed the dynamic RecoveryLancaster.com and all design & graphic collateral for the initiative, Improve & Grow for digital ads, Namespark for social media advertising and promotion, Scheffey for marketing and public relations, MAKE/films for video and commercials, Cinthia Kettering for Spanish translation services, and PhotOle Photography for photography.

This team was a creative, efficient, and collaborative team that worked under tight deadlines and intense timelines to get the messaging out to the County.

“At Infantree, we’ve long said that we’re a team of creative problem solvers who want to make a meaningful impact,” said Ryan Martin, Partner and Account Director at Infantree. “So when our community was forced to address the combined challenges of a global pandemic, economic uncertainty, and social unrest, we knew we were going to be put to the test. We were honored to be part of the team that was mobilized to create a clear and consistent message for Recovery Lancaster. We were also tasked with developing a centralized online hub that was responsible for distributing much-needed funds and PPE to those in need. In a time when there is so much division, it was energizing to be part of a team that was focused on supporting and caring for the community we all love so much.”

Critical Component To Reopening: Health Trends

An area that continues to be evaluated and strategized is how Recovery Lancaster can be a hub for public health information in an ever-changing landscape.

“Our best way forward is to prevent the spread of the coronavirus so those who do get sick can get the care they need without overwhelming healthcare systems and community resources,” said Hilda Shirk, PhD. “We want to return to life beyond our homes, allowing our businesses and community to reopen and stay open. Following public health guidelines puts us on the path to make that happen.”

As we head into the flu season and while we continue to use precautions with our health, Dr. Shirk reminded us that prevention is still key. Team 2, which includes team members with expertise in health, public health, and vulnerable populations, continues to talk regularly with a focus on information that may be useful or important to help guide business. “It is at this intersection – of public health and business operations – that our team sits. It is so fortunate for Lancaster County to have individuals from the health systems carving out the extra time to keep this focus, even while they are juggling this most pressing health event in their own facilities.”

“Our most vulnerable populations rely on all of us to protect them,” she added. “Prevention is our most powerful tool to fight this virus and each of us have a role to play. Cooperating with health professionals who are reaching out to those who have been in close contact with someone infected with the virus can effectively stop the spread.”

She also mentioned that, in an environment where things continue to shift, being aware of where our resources are is critical.

“We are learning more about the coronavirus every day and advice to manage it effectively can change.  We need to be open to listening to the medical experts who are guiding us through.  Cures and vaccines will alleviate the pressure on our businesses and the community, but they will take some time to develop and administer.” For more information on the health portion of the plan, visit www.recoverylancaster.com/health.

Looking Towards The Horizon: What’s Next?

Recovery Lancaster reflects many of the best aspects of Lancaster County: resilience, a compassion for neighbors and fellow businesses, efficiency and generosity. 

Moving forward, the work is not over. The Recovery Lancaster team remains focused on monitoring and evaluating current public health and economic conditions and developing strategies to help carry our County through 2021 and beyond with confidence.

If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to info@recoverylancaster.com.

Recent Posts

See all posts

Business Spotlight: Face Masks Are Season’s Hottest Look

Emily Drobnock is passionate about accessories. So much so that she turned a parent-fostered love of flea market finds, family heirlooms and vintage costume pieces into an expanding business. Read the feature spotlight.

Read Article

Health News: Why a focus on public health matters

Our new article spotlights the importance of public health and why it matters as we navigate how our economy rebounds.

Read article

Normal changes quickly… Sign up for our newsletter

Meet all of our partner organizations