Shaheen calls for more small-business funding in visit to Keene

August 27, 2020

Two factors kept Electronic Imaging Materials, a Keene-based label manufacturer, afloat during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to its owner and president, Alex Henkel.

The first was the company's reliance on clients working in public health, who ordered even more of its products in response to the novel coronavirus. The second was a loan of more than $500,000 from the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program.

PPP loans were the main topic of conversation during U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s visit to EIM on Wednesday.

As Shaheen toured the company’s 20,000-square-foot facility on Forge Street, she and Henkel discussed its operational changes during the pandemic as well as opportunities for more financial support for small businesses.

Shaheen, D-N.H., praised the federal government’s disbursement of more than $500 billion in PPP loans to eligible businesses and nonprofits, which Congress allocated this spring to bolster a scuffling economy, and called for additional funding through the program. (The Sentinel received a PPP loan.)

Henkel thanked Shaheen for her commitment to PPP, explaining that Electronic Imaging Materials has continued production since March and was not forced to lay off any of its 39 employees, due largely to the $523,400 loan it received through the program on April 15.

"Having PPP become available meant we could take more time [figuring out] how to plan our business [during the pandemic]," said Henkel, whose father, Paul, founded EIM in 1987.

As part of EIM’s operational adjustments amid COVID-19, more than 20 employees are working remotely and will likely continue to do so until a vaccine is available, Henkel told Shaheen.

"Since people are so [dependent] on child care, this gives them the flexibility to build their work life around their family life," he said.

Shaheen, a former New Hampshire governor who is running for her third term in the U.S. Senate, spoke with several employees who remain at EIM’s warehouse, including Jason Wilder, a sales manager who said overseeing the company’s sales staff while they work remotely is a new challenge.

Wilder said the biggest change in recent months is on the company’s lead times to complete an order, which he said now average 10 to 15 days, compared to about five days before the pandemic. Wilder attributed the increase to a number of factors, including delays in when EIM receives label materials from its suppliers, many of which are in the Midwest.

During the tour, Henkel told Shaheen that EIM’s clients include public health departments and medical research laboratories, several of which are developing vaccines for the novel coronavirus.

Increased demand from those clients for EIM products - which include vial labels that can withstand cryogenic conditions the labs use during testing - helped offset much of the reduction in orders from other clients, according to Henkel.

"We’re fortunate to have our business spread out among many different customers," he told Shaheen.

Still, EIM’s revenue dropped by 20 percent in May, compared to the same month last year, Henkel told The Sentinel in an email. Henkel said the company’s shipments in June, July and August have slightly exceeded its totals during the same months in 2019.

EIM was among more than 1,500 companies and nonprofits in the Monadnock Region that received a total of at least $100 million in PPP funding before the program expired on Aug. 8. In all, more than 24,000 businesses in New Hampshire received $2.5 billion in PPP funding before the program’s expiration, according to the state’s Department of Revenue Administration.

During her visit to EIM, Shaheen said the federal government should resume accepting applications for the more than $130 billion in PPP funding that the Small Business Administration never distributed.

Although claims stalled this summer due to confusion around the terms of loan forgiveness, 80 percent of small business owners whose companies received initial PPP funds said in a survey this month that they would like a second disbursement.

Shaheen touted legislation she co-authored in June, the Prioritized Paycheck Protection Program (P4) Act, that would extend the application deadline for PPP assistance to Dec. 30. The bill would also authorize businesses with 100 employees or fewer that have spent, or plan to spend, their first PPP disbursement to apply for a second round of funding through the program.

Shaheen said she believes there is bipartisan support for extending the PPP application deadline to support "businesses that are still hurting."

She added that a deal to reauthorize the program likely depends on whether Congress can reach a compromise on thornier issues, including funding for personal protective equipment and school reopening measures. She added that she "would be surprised" if PPP is reauthorized without the passage of a larger stimulus package.

Earlier on Wednesday, Shaheen met with Jaffrey and Peterborough town officials for a briefing on the $12.6 million Cold Stone Springs project, a new water source that the towns will share. Representatives from the Northern Border Regional Commission, a joint federal-state agency that provided a grant to Cold Stone Springs, and the Jaffrey-based bioscience manufacturer, Millipore-Sigma, also attended the meeting, according to a news release from Shaheen’s office.


By:  Caleb Symons
Source: Keene Sentinel