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Wednesday was the first day that businesses selected to take part in the “Regrow 2020” match program could begin selling gift cards.

Within two hours, some of the salons had sold out. By Thursday morning, Denise Wilkinson, president of the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce, said she would not be surprised if more businesses were sold out.

“I haven’t had a chance to purchase any myself yet,” Wilkinson said late Wednesday afternoon.

“I can’t believe they would sell out that quickly. I thought a couple of days. That is amazing.”

Wilkinson said she is pleased because that’s the purpose of the program. With the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, many businesses have been hurt, especially the smaller ones.

The idea behind Regrow 2020 was to assist locally owned, brick and mortar retail, restaurants, bars/taverns, fitness centers, salons, theaters and entertainment operations in the county. Preferences were given to businesses with fewer than 30 full-time equivalent employees and those that are locally owned.

Wilkinson said the chamber received 105 applications, and its Small Resource Team of six people reviewed the applicants.

They funded all but 13 of the applicants, although some of the applicants were partially funded.

The program ended up with $118,500 that was raised. That should provide a stimulus of $355,500 into the local economy.

Businesses have until June 30, or until their cards run out before that date, to sell them. It is up to the businesses to decide how long the cards are good.

This is how it works. For every dollar a shopper spends on the gift card, the shopper is provided with a 50% match. A person might buy a $10 card, for example, and then get a $15 card back.

Each household may purchase up to $100 and get back $150 per business. The $100 limit at a business is so that more people can participate, Wilkinson said.

Sponsors of the program are Plum Creek Wind (Lincoln Clean Energy), the Greater Norfolk Economic Development Foundation, the Johnny Carson Foundation, the Norfolk Area Community Foundation Fund, CalmWater Financial, TC Energy, Nucor Steel, the Norfolk Area Chamber of Commerce, City of Norfolk, Norfolk Area Economic Development Council and Norfolk Area Small Business Resource Team.

Given the demand, Wilkinson advises those interested in not delaying to purchase their gift cards.

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