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Local small businesses may be eligible for complimentary advertising space through the Evening Post Newspaper Group's matching grant program. 

Has anyone found another word for unprecedented?

"Unparalleled," "unique" and "incomparable" are all decent substitutes, but none adequately describe the point in history in which we find ourselves. Trying to figure out what happens next is just too big of a puzzle for all of us. Business owners are being asked to make decisions based on the ambiguous short-term outlook with the long-term future. For now, let’s focus on the medium term.

The current climate of hesitancy being demonstrated by shoppers and patrons alike have many businesses wondering whether there is a financial benefit to opening their doors in the short term and under the current health guidelines and occupancy rates. However, as we see consumer confidence rise with increased testing, contract tracing plans and recovery rates, economists predict an opportunity for a local business resurgence in the medium term, namely the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021.

In addition to asking a lot of the questions, we also want to be part of the solution and the future for local businesses.

This week, Evening Post Industries, owner of the Aiken Standard, the North Augusta Star, The Post and Courier and more than seven other media brands across South Carolina, launched a $1 million matching marketing grant program to support recovery advertising for eligible small businesses in South Carolina.

We believe in recovery, resurgence and rebounding.

The Aiken Standard has been an integral part of the community since 1867 and has reported through world wars, hundreds of catastrophic events locally and globally, and dozens of economic peaks and downturns, including the 1918 pandemic. Based on that history, our confidence is unmatched in Aiken County’s residents and businesses. Their ability and tenacity ensure this community’s ability to thrive.

Shortly after businesses were asked to close in March, the City of Aiken, Security Federal Bank, Aiken Corporation and the Aiken Chamber of Commerce combined efforts to fund small business recovery loans up to $10,000 per qualifying business. It was an enormous undertaking and they should be credited with supporting around 45 small businesses in Aiken. Their foresight and proactive approach are a credit to the forged partnerships and doggedness of Aiken’s leadership.

As a local business, the newspaper is contributing where it can by opening up news coverage online for free in the best interest of public health as well as offering advertising space in the form of matching marketing grants.

“I believe this grant will provide local businesses an easy path to communicate with their customers during this reopening stage," Aiken Standard Publisher Rhonda Overbey said. "Aiken Standard readers are local, responsive and dedicated to supporting businesses in the CSRA. Subscribers want to hear directly from local businesses.”

Readers and consumers of the Aiken Standard care about their community and will support businesses who communicate with them.

The $1 million matching grant provides recipients with the option of advertising locally in the Aiken Standard and the North Augusta Star or expanding their advertising into other markets from Columbia to Charleston and points in between. In the first 24 hours, we received nearly $40,000 in grant requests from Aiken businesses. The application is open until June 30, 2020.

The online application is fast and easy. If you’re a small business in Aiken County, visit aikenstandard.com/1million and apply for assistance to kickstart your marketing campaign in print and online. If your long-term goal is to thrive and your short-term plan is to prepare for re-opening safely and securely, the matching marketing grant may be just what you need for the medium term.