April 7, 2020

Good evening MNLGA Members:

This e-mail is distributed to key contacts; please feel free to share with others in your office. A few new things for you this evening:

At Governor Hogan’s press conference today, he did not impose additional restrictions on essential businesses. He did make comment that he believes the intensity of the peak of the pandemic in Maryland will be lessened because of actions taken, however, that duration of the pandemic will be longer.  So, shorter peak time, but longer duration overall, particularly during the recovery period as precautions will be lifted cautiously in attempt to prevent a second round of disease spread.    

The Governor also noted that he is enforcing COVID-19 precautions and has authorized authorities to fine and/or shut down organizations/businesses that are not strictly following COVID-19 mandates.

I think this is a really good place to pause and reiterate the last paragraph.  If your business is not utilizing COVID-19 precautions, you could be fined and shut down.  And if that happens to you, then authorities will certainly be taking a closer look at other businesses in the Green Industry. 

Now is the time to show an abundance of caution and since for the most part, the Green Industry is a very public-facing industry – landscapers and garden centers in particular – we each need to show the public that we are utilizing COVID-19 precautions.  Keep your employees separated – at least 6 feet at all times. Have your employees wear masks and gloves; this shows the public that you and your employees are acting responsibly. If you are still open for foot traffic, have the doors open so no one needs to touch them. Have staff positioned strategically to help customers and prevent them from getting to close to one another. Perceptions count and if the public perceives that our industry is getting a “pass” to work while so many other industries are closed, we could be hurt. So, make the effort to show the public that you are protecting your employees and them with your very overt COVID-19 precautions. 

A member shared with me this video from last Sunday’s CBS Sunday Morning program. Filmed at a garden center in California, it focuses on the notion of planting vegetable gardens. Overall, a good message and encouragement for people to garden.

As you know, the MNGLA website hosts a plethora of COVID-19 resources, including the recovery and relief funding and loan programs. MNLGA first vice-president, John Murphy, has offered his assistance to anyone who may need help navigating some of these programs. If interested in EIDL, John found, with the help of an SBA agent, an abbreviated application online. Contact John if you need more information. murphyflower@gmail.com

One member, below, reports on his experience with applying for PPP. He notes that SBA loans typically capped at $1M for the nursery industry, but that cap is lifted for the PPP loans. Please watch out for scams. Be suspect of e-mails requesting your to verify by executing a link or downloading attachments. Unfortunately, the scammers have not taken a break during this crisis.

New Member Feedback :
Wholesale Nursery: We applied and completed the application (for PPP) Monday after about 8 hours of work. Most of the trouble in the process was due to issues with the bank software. We received a confirmation from the bank but since then they have been quiet. We almost immediately received an email from SBA. Turns out we think it was a scam with malware embedded. Bank said we should not receive any communication from SBA....time will tell if that is true. Everyone should know the SBA size limitation for business size is not in effect; it would have been $1,000,000 for nurseries. SBA made that clear Tuesday night. Right now, business here is booming; it could end tomorrow. We have had a few cancels but also new orders. However, in 3 months I'll probably make my receivables list available for sale to anyone out there in nursery land.

Garden Center: New normal for us is curbside pickup and deliveries. I am still ordering but not as many ornamental and tons of veggies and fruit bushes. I have been doing video clips either live or not and talking about our selection. We then put prices online and with nothing else to do in our area people are really responding. We find we are working harder collecting merchandise and loading but its working. 

Garden Center: We are tired of hearing "Lowes has people walking all over the place, why can't I come shop freely at your place?!" We can barely keep up with the pre-order business we have with our limited staff. Sadly, the last thing I can handle is more business. Can MDA or someone put out a notice to 'understand, appreciate, and respect the efforts' of those who are trying really hard to serve the public while protecting them and their employees?

Remember to utilize the COVID-19 resources page on the MNLGA website . It includes resources to help connect with consumers, explanations and access to state and federal recovery, employment, and relief efforts, and more.

Please keep me informed of what is going on with your business. If I know what is going on, I may be a better resource to you and to other members as we navigate together this uncharted territory. Feel free to email me at Vanessa @mnlga.org .

Vanessa A. Finney
Executive Director, MNLGA

Also, I'm reiterating that last week the MNLGA board paused all membership dues until April 1 of next year. As well, non-members are invited to join with a complimentary membership through the end of 2020. The purpose of this is to enable us to get information out to as many businesses as possible, as efficiently as possible. Pass the word to your non-member colleagues. Prospective members go to www.mnlga.org , click the "join here" button and select membership type 2020-Comp. Easy to do!

Blood banks across the area are in need. If you are able to give blood, please consider visiting the Red Cross. I think it would be wise to make an appointment rather than arrive unexpectedly.  Visit Greater Chesapeake Region Red Cross to find a donation center near you.