*The following piece was originally published on Medium.com on March 19, 2020.
Small businesses are part of the nation’s critical infrastructure, and at times like these, it’s the multigenerational businesses in our communities, like restaurants, ice cream shops, theaters, independent clothing stores and others like those in the chocolate and candy industry, that put it all on the line. These companies contribute to the national and local economies in a way that should not be overshadowed by the bailout bonanza for big business currently being considered by Congress and the White House. For many of these small businesses, there is an immediate need for support if these companies are to survive.
It’s time to harness the collective resilience, grit and determination needed to get assistance measures across the finish line for the family-owned companies in our industry and all small businesses across the country. Wholesalers, distributors and other family-owned companies alike need business interruption liquidity so that they don’t have to lay off their employees. In other words, our elected officials need to move quickly to provide no-interest loans to these companies so that they can make payroll.
As elected officials at all levels of government continue to take on the major public health challenges presented by COVID-19, our national leaders in government must take every opportunity to address the needs of the hardworking small business owners that serve as an economic engine and driver of job creation in this country. While we are encouraged by the leadership shown by Governor Wolf of Pennsylvania and Governor DeWine of Ohio, there is still much more work that the President, members of Congress, governors, mayors and other elected officials must do to ensure that the backbone of our economy does not collapse.
On behalf of the confectionery industry and along with 60 other food industry organizations, we recently sent a letter to elected officials at all levels of government calling on them to officially recognize food manufacturing as essential critical infrastructure, thereby exempting food industry operations from curfews and limitations on public gatherings. As we all know, manufacturing facilities are not areas of “public gathering,” but are heavily controlled environments that are regularly inspected, operate under strict food safety requirements, exemplify good manufacturing practices and exercise rigorous hygienic protocols.
Manufacturers of chocolate, candy, gum and mints directly employ nearly 54,000 people across the United States, with the majority of these jobs being created by small businesses. Importantly, the power of this concentrated but important part of our economy lies in the 1:10 multiplier effect that supports more than 550,000 jobs in related industries, including agriculture, retail, transportation and more. If the small businesses within our industry, not to mention the broader food manufacturing sector, end up failing because of the very serious challenges we are facing as a country, a significant number of jobs will crumble behind them, causing major harm to our economy.
To those in government who have embraced food manufacturing as an essential service for their constituents, thank you for your support of our member companies and member companies’ suppliers, which collectively boost the economy and drive The Power of Sweet.
We strongly encourage all governors, mayors and other government officials to take decisive action to rescue American small businesses from economic peril and make it clear that food manufacturing is an essential service in these uncertain times.