Resiliency Academy

Helping Granite Staters develop business and community resiliency plans

  • Three people with plants

In just a few years, Studley Flowers in downtown Rochester will celebrate its 100th anniversary. The family-owned florist, garden center and landscape company was started in 1928. 

Brothers David and Jeffrey Meulenbroek took over the business from their parents, who had acquired it in 1971. Alongside the brothers, Jeffrey’s wife Molly serves as an owner and operator.

“We had not really thought of resiliency before the pandemic, although when we did take over the business in 2008 we were in the start of the Great Recession so we did have to think a lot differently about our business at that time,” says Molly Meulenbroek, who participated in Resiliency Academy in 2021.

Offered by UNH Extension and the N.H. Small Business Development Center (SBDC), Resiliency Academy is designed for small businesses, community leaders, volunteers, municipal officials, economic development professionals and anyone interested in economic recovery.

Through a webinar, a virtual training and in-person tours of N.H. communities, participants learn strategies for responding and adapting to and recovering from the challenges of a sudden shock such as a fire, natural disaster or pandemic. Both businesses and communities need resiliency planning to rebound and be prepared for future disruptions, but a 2020 N.H. SBDC state-wide survey found that only 19% of businesses in the state had resiliency plans in place pre-pandemic.

Community resiliency is the ability of a community to respond, adapt, withstand and recover from adverse situations.

Business resiliency is the ability to quickly adapt and respond to business disruptions and protect employees and assets, while maintaining business operations. 

Business resiliency planning process:

1. Identify key resources, employees, business functions, goals and threats. 

2. Plan for the threats and impacts to the business functions. 

3. Implement the necessary steps in the plan. 

4. Recover with strategies to return to normal business operations.

  • People in store

    Extension and the N.H. SBDC have forged partnerships with local businesses and organizations like Indonesia Community Connect, Inc. (ICC) in Somersworth.

For owners like the Meulenbroeks, that includes addressing the physical aspects of their aging building – considering what updates should be made structurally — as well as the upgrades needed for virtual components of the business, like cybersecurity and security compliance for credit card processing.

While continuing to work on the plan for Studley Flowers, Molly Meulenbroek says that being involved with Rochester’s Main Street and local civic matters has made a big difference. “I had strong community connections and networks before the pandemic, which really helped us get through the pandemic…It’s a good reminder that when you’re thinking about resiliency, your business network is important to cultivate; it’s important to know who the experts are who you can call when you need extra help, she says.

  • Two women

    Molly Donovan (left) and Liz Gray

North Country Rising

When the COVID-19 pandemic swept across New Hampshire, businesses were forced to close, tourists stopped visiting and locals avoided dining out. With regulations and conditions rapidly changing, small businesses grappled with planning for an uncertain future.

To address these challenges and with support of CARES Act funding, the North Country Council Economic Development District and Regional Planning Commission are creating a long-term COVID-19 recovery and resiliency plan called North Country Rising. Members of this initiative attended Resiliency Academy and have adopted Extension’s resiliency framework and recommendations on inclusion, innovation and networking while engaging over 200 people in their region. Extension state specialist Molly Donovan says, “This is a tremendous outcome of our teaching.”

The North Country Council has been gathering insights from businesses, non-profits, civic institutions, schools and social venues that have been impacted by the pandemic to inform the plan.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was 16% in April 2020, compared to the national average of 14.8%. In April 2021, New Hampshire’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.8%, compared to a national average of 6.1%. Those numbers are promising, but many other factors —skyrocketing inflation, panic buying, supply chain issues, an aging workforce and labor shortage still prove challenging for communities.

By intentionally thinking about setbacks that may occur in the future, communities can leverage resources and, like a phoenix emerging from ashes, rise again. 

Resiliency Academy

Author(s)

Emma Joyce
Digital Marketing Strategist and Content Producer
Phone: (603) 862-1814
Office: Cooperative Extension, Nesmith Hall Rm 319, Durham, NH 03824