Chamber, Cerni Distribute ‘Timely’ PPE Kits

AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – Mark Cole drove up to the doors at Cerni Motors and was handed a white box full of personal protective equipment. It was a welcome sight for the owner of Mark Cole Agency after spending approximately $250 for the same essentials earlier in the year.

“I would say this should last a good several months to a good three months,” Cole said. “It was a big help and it saved a lot of money, so it’s another great thing the chamber and other companies do for all of us members, here.”

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber partnered with JobsOhio, Team NEO and Cerni Motors to distribute personal protective equipment to small businesses at Cerni’s site in Austintown on Thursday. The packages were targeted toward small businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

Each kit contained 100 three-ply masks, 10 KN95 masks and a 24-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer. Each business received one kit on a first come-first served basis. JobsOhio purchased the kits and the Team NEO and chamber were tasked with distribution.

Mark Cole, owner of Mark Cole Agency in Austintown, with his personal protective equipment kit he received at Cerni Motors.

“It’s a team effort,” Cerni Motor Sales President John Cerni said. “We all know how dangerous this pandemic is and how important it is to work together with the community.”

Around 150 small businesses got their kits in the first 30 minutes of distribution. Sarah Boyarko, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber’s chief operating officer and vice president of economic development, said the chamber expected to distribute upward of 600 kits.

“The most important thing is getting people back to work and getting people back to work safely,” Boyarko said. “And this is something that is an unexpected cost for a business, so partnering with JobsOhio and Team NEO certainly is a value to our organization to make sure the local business community can access these resources.”

Members of Team NEO distributed kits at JumpStart in Cleveland and the Akron Regional Chamber of Commerce before visiting Youngstown. Team NEO planned to give away 4,000 kits between distribution sites and donations to chambers of commerce throughout northeastern Ohio.

The Regional Chamber and Team NEO hope the gear will help businesses reopen or maintain operation.

Sarah Boyarko, chief operating officer and vice president of economic development at the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, and Cerni Motor Sales President John Cerni stand in front of a stack of kits full of personal protective equipment.

Boyarko said it’s too early to tell how the latest surge in COVID-19 cases will impact the local economy. But Nina Holliday, the senior director of creative services at Team NEO, said their quarterly report, using Moody’s Analytics, projected a slow economic recovery.

“The bottom line is it’s going to take a couple years to recover in GDP. It’s probably going to take five years to recover for employment,” Holliday said. “It’s definitely not going to happen over night.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine issued a statewide mask mandate effective at 6 p.m. Thursday. Cerni called the kit distribution “timely.”

“You have to display some kind of care and concern about other people’s health, and especially my employees and my customers and the community,” Cerni said when asked about a business owner’s role in containing further COVID-19 spread. “You’ve just got to keep this in front of everybody’s mind and show that everybody has to do their part to prevent the spread of this disease.”

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.