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What ARPA Means to Local Nonprofits, People in Need and the Hospitality and Restaurant Industry

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City officials and business leaders in the Peachtree Corners area are watching the unfolding of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and its sprawling variety of aid programs with great interest. They’re encouraged by what seems to be more a nod to small businesses in the latest permutation, as well as an industry-specific approach — the addition of an aid program targeted to restaurants.

For City Hall itself, top of mind has been making progress toward a grant program that would potentially help local business as well as struggling non-profits and individuals.

That grant money comes in the amount of $9 million, said City Manager Brian Johnson. Half of that arrived recently, he said, while the other 50% will show up in city coffers in one year. It’s part of $130 billion going out to local government entities nationwide, and the money has to be exhausted by three summers from now.

“The council’s intent is to spend it as quickly as we can responsibly spend it,” Johnson said, “and help those who have been harmed. We don’t want to sit on this until 2024.”

There are four general sets of federal guidelines under which grant program cash can be allocated, he explained.

The first is by far the most overarching, specifying assistance to households, small businesses and non-profits, and to such impacted industries as travel, tourism and hospitality. A second would reimburse the city for revenue lost due to the pandemic. A third set of guidelines is targeted to water, sewer and broadband improvements, and the last provides for premium pay for those doing essential work during the pandemic.

Johnson said a number of factors will be weighed in the vetting process, such as consideration of those who have gotten aid previously under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) and Economic Aid acts. Another is how and whether the money might be aimed at specific industries.

“It’s a great problem to have, but it’s still a challenge,” he said. “How do we make $9 million useable in the most productive way possible?”

To that end, Johnson and other staffers distilled the general guidelines down into several “conceptual” areas. His May 11 proposal to the council sketched out possible uses, including operating and capital grants to non-profits and, within that bucket, emergency assistance to individuals and families.
Business assistance programs also emerged as a touchstone with operating grants and property improvement comprising that area. Expansion of broadband infrastructure to underserved areas of the city also made the conceptual cut, as did potential reimbursement to the city for revenue lost to COVID.

A “shop local” incentive program and money for nuisance abatement (such as helping faltering businesses bring their properties back up to code) and utility assistance rounded out the conceptual model.

After council approval of a set of more detailed recommendations, staffers planned to draw up criteria and create an application period and process.

Johnson said that, under the earlier CARES act money that they parceled out, small businesses could use the grants however they saw fit. He said under ARPA there’s been talk about attaching more conditions, as opposed to “giving it to someone to put in their bank-account.” That harks back to the council’s stated goal of getting the money in circulation “to lubricate the economy.”

Business groups are cheering the help expected to arrive through the city grants, plus several other channels of the plan. At least one hopes that past hiccups can be ironed out.

“People are flat confused,” said Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA) President Lisa Proctor, the owner of a recruiting agency. “If you’re large enough to have good tax advisors or someone who’s focusing on the details, you’re in good shape. If you’re a small business having to navigate it yourself, it’s a problem.”

She cites, as an example, Small Business Administration (SBA) initiatives that have included a loan program, a grant program and a disaster assistance provision, making it difficult for businesses applying to determine what programs they might qualify for.

Proctor said that confusing verbiage and short application windows have created consternation. “I don’t think the concepts of the programs are bad. It’s the implementation,” she said. “Do the funds go to where they need to?”

One new concept within the ARPA and its programs under the SBA umbrella is the Restaurant Revitalization Fund, which gets a nod of approval from Cally D’Angelo, Senior Director of Membership Services and Small Business Initiatives for the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. She said carveouts like that are necessary if the industry is to recover and rebuild.

“I think is very helpful. Money is flowing,” she said, following the closure of the application period May 24. She added that users are not required to repay the money as long as it’s used in eligible ways by March of 2023.

She also points out that the program casts a wider net than many might think, not only incorporating aid for traditional sit-down restaurants, but also food trucks, bakeries, caterers, brewpubs and wineries. $28.6 billion has been set aside from the program to help restaurants meet payroll and other expenses.
The PCBA’s Proctor said their numbers show around 50 restaurants within three miles of Peachtree Corners Town Center, and that several have closed.

Smaller businesses are also getting a chance to move toward the head of the line, said D’Angelo. She said one example concerns the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL), which now incorporates a targeted EIDL option for businesses in low-income areas. Those smallest and hardest hit of them can get an extra $5,000 that doesn’t have to be repaid.

The revamp of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which gained more than $7 billion in additional funding, is another. A special two-week period for PPP applications earlier this year was designed for businesses of 20 employees or fewer, she said. She added that a mid-May report showed that the average loan size of PPP loan help packages — typically those are proportional to the size of the business applying for the aid — had decreased by about half, spotlighting the more targeted small business approach.

In addition, the PPP program’s eligibility criteria were expanded to include some non-profit organizations previously excluded.

To be sure, not only businesses are getting a helping hand. ARPA includes a broad menu of help programs for the public health workforce, schools, individuals and individual families.

Proctor’s concern remains that the dollars will go to the entities most needful, given past confusion and such missteps as when the first round of Paycheck Protection funding went, in large measure, to what some regarded as an inordinate percentage of large businesses and publicly traded corporations. “Based on the first round of what the SBA did, I am cautiously not optimistic,” she commented.

D’Angelo takes a more upbeat tone, saying that to put it in perspective, the SBA processed what’s usually more than 14 years’ worth of loans in 14 days at the outset of the pandemic, and that the agency has been adaptable. On a more local scale, she said that the Chamber and others have come together to form a small business resource group to provide information, webinars and feedback.

“Over time, responding to a crisis, you adapt to what the needs are. That’s how it’s supposed to work, right?” said D’Angelo.

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Taste of Peachtree Corners: PCBA Showcases Local Restaurants

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Over the past 12 years, the PCBA has awarded 19 scholarships and donated more than $156,000+ back to the Peachtree Corners community.
Photos by Anna del Villar

The Taste of Peachtree Corners has been in the works for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic put many key events on hold for the Peachtree Corners Business Association (PCBA).

But luckily this year, the dedicated staff of volunteers successfully executed a memorable event and introduced a lot of local business owners to their neighboring restaurants and caterers.

As I walked up to the Community Chest Room at Peachtree Corners City Hall on June 27, there was a line outside the door. I later found out that over 100 people had registered to attend the event. I got checked in quickly and was faced with a “passport” of 10 Peachtree Corners restaurants serving everything from high-end bakery items to good old-fashioned barbecue, and modern twists on seafood and American cuisines.

Let’s talk about the food

The idea was to visit all 10 restaurants and collect stars while trying samples and small plates. My first stop was Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, and they had my favorite – homemade chips and queso. The queso was smoky and mildly spicy with a great depth of flavor. What a great start. Next up was Chopt. Creative Salad Co. I had never heard of this restaurant before, but they blew me away with a perfect amuse-bouche of cherry tomato, pesto, mozzarella, and olive oil. These guys understand simple and fresh Mediterranean flavors.

The folks from Marlow’s Tavern were also on-site serving shrimp and grits with jalapeno, spinach and tomato beurre blanc. This is definitely the style of elevated food I’ve come to expect from Marlow’s. And as a nice touch, they prepared a refreshing blueberry cocktail.

Another familiar face was set up on the other side of the room. J.R.’s Log House Restaurant served southern favorites like pulled pork sliders, baked beans and mac n’ cheese. I couldn’t pass this one up. The pulled pork was tender, tangy and saucy. Exactly what I want from a barbecue. Lazy Dog’s table really impressed me with its presentation. The tuna cup with rice, avocado and chili with chips on the side, was a real stunner.

Moe’s Southwest Grill was also on-site handing out tasty tequila lime chicken with rice, avocado, and black beans. This super hearty and comforting entrée was followed by a seafood course from PECHE Modern Coastal. Crab cakes with a croissant pinwheel, roasted garlic and lemon aioli and arugula were on the menu and the flavor combinations were simply fantastic.

PECHE’s sister restaurant STAGE Kitchen & Bar was next door offering a tuna and salmon tostada with avocado, eel sauce, spicy mayo, and cilantro. This was easily one of my favorite bites of the night. The tostada was crunchy and light with clean and bright flavors. No kidding, I could probably eat this every day for lunch.

I moved on the Smoke’s Family Catering and owner Phillip Smoke had whipped up enough barbecue to feed an army.  I had the pleasure of trying the smoked chicken with potato salad and it was the perfect pairing. Last but not least: dessert. I capped off the evening with a beautiful chocolate ganache-filled croissant with perfect lamination and flaky texture.

The inspiration behind the event

With a (very) full stomach, I caught up with PCBA President Lisa Proctor to talk about the event.

“We knew that COVID was really hard on a lot of our restaurants to get people back in,” said Proctor. “We wanted to do it in June because we wanted to celebrate our military. Everybody remembers them maybe on Memorial Day or different things, but June is the 80th anniversary of D-Day.”

“The military is always close to our heart,” she added. “We’re also very proud of our restaurants. They all have gone above and beyond.”

Tonight, the PCBA was honoring the Armed Forces and its brave veterans while bestowing two donation checks to very worthy causes.

The first check for $500 went to Folds of Honor. Since 2007, Folds of Honor has provided life-changing scholarships to the spouses and children of America’s fallen or disabled military. And now, their mission expands to the families of America’s first responders.

The second check for $500 was given to Light Up the Corners, a 501(c)(3) volunteer organization with an annual glowing, flashing, blinking, shining, nighttime running party and fundraiser in one.  All proceeds from the event go to benefit less fortunate children and families in the Peachtree Corners community who are struggling by giving them the chance to participate in life-enhancing programs and activities at the Fowler YMCA.

Over the past 12 years, the PCBA has awarded 19 scholarships and donated more than $156,000+ back to the Peachtree Corners community.

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Local Resident Opens AtWork Location in Peachtree Corners

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AtWork, one of nation’s leading staffing franchises, has opened its third Metro Atlanta location in Peachtree Corners, Georgia at 6185 Buford Highway, Suite E-100.

AtWork Peachtree Corners is locally-owned by Kamal Bhatia, an immigrant from India with decades of experience in hospitality and as the Senior Vice President of Operations of Atlanta-based Action Bartending School.

AtWork, one of nation’s leading staffing franchises, has opened its third Metro Atlanta location in Peachtree Corners.
Kamal Bhatia

“There is an incredible need for AtWork’s services in Peachtree Corners,” said Bhatia. “Since migrating here in 1996, I’ve witnessed Atlanta evolve and sprout new communities north of the city, including my own. Peachtree Corners has become a hub for thriving businesses, and my goal with this location is to be a key resource between companies and job seekers to support the continued growth of our local economy.”

Bhatia’s son and daughter will assist him in the business.

“This is an opportunity to create a legacy company to ensure our community is supported for generations to come,” he said.

For more than three decades, AtWork’s mission has been to connect people with jobs and jobs with people. With more than 100 locations nationwide, AtWork puts nearly 40,000 individuals to work each year in administrative, light-industrial, accounting and finance, hospitality, IT and management-level positions at some of the nation’s largest and most recognizable companies.

“We’re proud to open our doors in Peachtree Corners and provide a common place for both job seekers and growing businesses to turn for staffing solutions,” said Jason Leverant, President and COO of AtWork.

“AtWork will serve as a key resource to help employees thrive, businesses prosper and communities flourish. Kamal is the perfect partner to champion our mission and be a servant leader in her local community,” he added.

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Business and Birdies: PCBA to Host PGA Tour Championship Exec.

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Alex Urban, Executive Director of the TOUR Championship in Atlanta

Don’t miss your chance to connect and learn at the Peachtree Corners Business Association‘s (PCBA) After Hours Speaker Series. Mark your calendars for Thursday, July 25 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. and head to the Hilton Atlanta Northeast (5993 Peachtree Industrial Blvd, Peachtree Corners, GA 30092).

This event features guest speaker Alex Urban, Executive Director of the TOUR Championship in Atlanta. Urban brings more than just golf expertise to the table. He is a graduate of Clemson and UGA with a background in communications and marketing, and he’s passionate about using his skills for social good.

His talk, “Stewarding to Serve: How Leaders Can Leverage Resources for Community Impact,” promises valuable insights for current or aspiring business leaders.

Plus, the PCBA will be presenting a donation to Paint Gwinnett Pink, a local breast cancer charity making a real difference.

Ticket prices range from $25 for early bird members to $40 for guests.

Register today to secure your spot!

And click here for more PCBA news.

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