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COVID 19 Updates

A Surge in Shopping Local Online

Will Burns on Monday, October 26, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

The COVID crisis has been tough on many Main Street businesses. And as we look toward the holiday shopping season, COVID-19 cases in the U.S. are growing at a speed not seen since July. In the midst of a pandemic, shopping local and buying online are no longer mutually exclusive.

Many resilient small business owners adjusted business practices and boosted their online presence in order to continue serving their customers. From curbside pickup and remote ordering to videoconference consultations and social media promotions, small businesses showcased their agility and consumers responded.

A recent report by Facebook and the Small Business Roundtable highlighted some of the ways small businesses are leveraging internet tools to adapt during the crisis. The survey found that:

  • 51 percent of businesses report increasing online interactions with their customers.
  • 35 percent of businesses that changed operations have expanded the use of digital payments.

It’s not just businesses that are adapting. Consumers are combining their enthusiasm for social media engagement with their desire to support favorite local businesses. Coffee shops, restaurants, craft breweries and quirky boutiques are part of what make our communities unique. Residents don’t want to see their favorite local businesses fail. In fact, the National Retail Federation reports that 49 percent of consumers “made a purchase specifically to support a local or small business.”

Countless chambers of commerce around the world encouraged this behavior through social media campaigns to promote shopping local. They pulled small businesses together and collected and shared information about operational changes like curbside pickup, adjusted hours, special promotions and more. Then they rallied consumers to support their town’s small businesses and encouraged them to share via social media platforms.

Here are just a handful of examples.

With the holiday shopping season upon us, it is more important than ever for chambers to continue to support their local businesses. Here are some partner resources that can help:

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Weekly Roundup 10/16/2020

Will Burns on Friday, October 16, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

#ChamberStrong COVID Initiatives 

  • The Greater Cleveland Partnership has set an aggressive 10-year plan that addresses the immediate and longer-term impacts of the coronavirus pandemic while strengthening the region through inclusive, technology-based growth.
  • The Saratoga County Chamber will launch the “Save Our Local Businesses” campaign to help restaurants and other small businesses impacted by ongoing COVID restrictions during the year-end holidays. 
  • The Owen County Chamber of Commerce & EDC and the Owen County Community Foundation announced that the Owen County Economic Recovery Bridge Grant is now open for round two. Small businesses can apply for a grant of up to $5,000.
  • The Asheville Area Chamber hosted a virtual career expo this week. Job seekers could participate from any device with an internet connection and upload resume’s browse information about local employers and meet with prospective employers via chat or email.
  • The Greater Boston Chamber released its Roadmap to Economic Recovery this week, a set of policy principles developed to help lawmakers restore and strengthen the economy. 
  • Based on experiences through the pandemic, ten Montgomery County Pennsylvania chambers formed the Alliance of Montgomery County Chambers of Commerce to provide a vehicle for open dialog on emerging issues and establish a forum to leverage their collective voice for business advocacy.
  • The Irving-Las Colinas Chamber and Irving Hispanic Chamber are working with the city on its Emergency Business Assistance Grant Program, which just expanded eligibility to independently owned franchises, sole proprietors and home-based business owners.
  • The Nashville Area Chamber is working with the Nashville Entrepreneur Center to launch Renew Nashville, a citywide initiative designed to provide small businesses and entrepreneurs negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic with world-class expertise and resources aimed at increasing their rate of survival.

What We're Reading

  • Based on interviews with more than 100 board directors, Korn Ferry contends that CEOs for the future will need to demonstrate inquisitiveness, agility, humility, and an insatiable appetite for learning like no generation before them.
  • LinkedIn recently explored generational differences in terms of how people are coping with the pandemic and reconnecting with the workplace.
  • Business Roundtable, representing over 200 CEOs, announced corporate actions and public policy recommendations to advance racial equity and justice and increase economic opportunity in America.
  • Axios: State officials plea for stimulus aid to save transit systems

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Weekly Roundup 10/9/2020

Will Burns on Saturday, October 10, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

#ChamberStrong COVID Initiatives 

  • The Philadelphia Regional Recharge and Recovery Task Force, led by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia and its CEO Council for Growth, released a Phase 1 recommendations and actions report detailing the immediate actions devised to stabilize the regional economy and ensure rapid recovery when businesses reopen.
  • Four chambers in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, chambers leveraged CARES Act funding to jointly develop a new program to support businesses and help them adapt to new methods to address COVID-related challenges.
  • Pocatello-Chubbuck Chamber of Commerce worked with the police department to promote civility and encourage business owners and patrons to be respectful and patient with safety measures put in place to protect employees and customers.
  • Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce partnered with the Community College RI Divisions of Workforce Partnerships to create a series of free courses to help displaces workers and companies that have transitioned to remote work access digital skills training to help individuals skill up.
  • The Red Bluff-Tehama County Chamber of Commerce will administer grant programs to distribute $320,000 in grants to small businesses impacted by the COVID crisis and statewide stay at home orders.
  • The Lindale Chamber Area Chamber created the Launch Local Festival to support businesses impacted by COVID-19 by creating an event that celebrates local companies, food, wineries and art.
  • The Springfield Area Chamber launched its Education Resource Center for employers to gather as much information about school reopening as possible in one centralized location to answer questions from parents and employers alike.
  • Barry Wilfahrt, CCE, IOM, President & CEO of the Grand Forks East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce participated in an online Q&A with the Grand Forks Herald, discussing COVID-related issues and economic resilience in Grand Forks.
  • The Buffalo Niagara Partnership launched the It’s Our Job campaign to promote healthy behaviors, keep businesses open, encourage consumers to shop local and help stop the spread.
  • The Ponca City Chamber is holding a scavenger hunt through the month of October to increase foot traffic at local businesses and provide the community something fun to do.
  • The Salina Area Chamber of Commerce Foundation launched a small business grant program to assist small businesses with loss of income due to the impacts of COVID-19 and the stay at home order.
  • The Plymouth Area Chamber of Commerce has partnered with the company Ritual to give member restaurants an opportunity to pivot more smoothly to an online ordering format customers can access through their phones.
  • With elections around the corner and voters encouraged to vote early or absentee, the South Bend Regional Chamber posted recordings of candidate interviews for many critical local races. 

What We’re Reading

  • New Public Affairs Council Poll finds the public is critical of the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and believes the private sector has done a better job of balancing safety concerns with the need to re-open the economy. Learn more and browse other insights
  • HBR: The Uncertain Future of Corporate HQs - Richard Florida explores trends around the COVID-driven rise of remote work and what it could mean for office reentry and corporate location decisions.
  • RDG: In his latest blog post, Rob Radcliff explores how approaching philanthropic foundations for financial support is different from approaching corporations.
  • Cushman & Wakefield: A report and webinar analyzing COVID-19’s impact on the office sector. 

 

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Weekly Roundup 9/18/2020

Will Burns on Friday, September 18, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

#ChamberStrong COVID Initiatives 

  • Minot Area Chamber of Commerce worked with Trinity Health to produce a toolkit that provides businesses with guidance on enhancing protections for employees and customers during the COVID-19 pandemic.  
  • San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Richard Perez recently discussed the current economic situation in the region and highlighted worked training and retraining initiatives that can help workers gain the skills needed for jobs that are in demand right now.
  • Many chambers participated in the virtual Business Leaders United on the Hill event this week, calling on Congress to invest in digital skills training. To see some of the participants in their virtual meetings, view the hashtag #BLUontheHill.
  • The Capital Region Chamber will manage the new Capital Region Advancement Fund, a new revolving loan fund that will immediately assist businesses throughout the Capital Region who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • With the COVID pandemic grounding the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance’s business recruitment team, the organization launched a new series of virtual mixers with site consultants to help maintain relationships with those who bring projects to the region.
  • Saratoga County Chamber showcased Saratoga Hospital's COVID 19 Business Safety Consultation Program during an online meeting of its Small Business Owners Council.

 

Virtual and Hybrid Event Innovations 

Chambers are facing many challenges around events, including government restrictions on the size of gatherings, corporate policies that forbid employees from attending events, issues related to attendee confidence, Zoom fatigue and more. How is your chamber adapting? Please send me your most creative solutions to pulling off impactful events and we will share with the broader chamber community. Here are a few examples we've seen over the last few weeks: 

  • The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber typically attracts 350 or more to its Epic Awards program. The state capped gatherings at 25 people, so the chamber had to get creative. They pre-recorded the program and had five sets of watch parties at area restaurants with outdoor seating for sponsors and honorees. The program was live-streamed on YouTube and Facebook and the chamber secured time on a local television station to rebroadcast. The event was a success financially, the chamber reached more people than in prior years and they received positive feedback from attendees sponsors and honorees alike. 
  • Greenville-Pitt County Chamber decided that another zoom event wasn’t going to be good enough for its annual Small Business Leader Awards. They partnered with a local church to host participants, speakers and honorees in person while broadcasting the event via live stream to the rest of its membership.
  • Grand Rapids Chamber wanted to up the production value of its virtual events, so it teamed up with a local studio to live stream the chamber’s recent Health Care Summit. 
  • The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber took inspiration from the NFL Draft to create an engaging virtual experience for its Annual Best Places to Work Awards. The chamber streamed the event using its office as the main site. As the moderators went through the program, they broaght the various companies into the broadcast via Zoom.
  • How do you host a socially distanced job fair? The Greater Rochester Chamber and the Longview Chamber recently promoted drive-thru job fairs to connect job seekers with opportunities in a safe outdoor environment. 

 

What We're Reading 

  • Feeding into our research on the future of chambers, this recent article from McKinsey & Company shows why we need to articulate our purpose as chambers, including solving our community’s greatest challenges. 
  • New research from Morning Consult and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Early Childhood Initiative offers key insights into how working parents are making school-age care decisions as schools shift online.
  • In a recent article, Bruce Katz highlighted how the COVID-19 crisis has simultaneously heightened the need for the national leadership, but revealed the power and agility of the local leadership.
  • Greater Louisville Inc. released Now Louisville, a new strategic plan to help the organization propel the region to the next level by creating deeper public-private partnerships and focus their action on strategic pillars that will move the needle and create measurable change.

 

 

 

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Weekly Roundup 9/11/2020

Will Burns on Friday, September 11, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

Expanding PPP to 501(c)(6) Organizations

Our partners at ASAE have a new sign-on letter urging Congress to expand Paycheck Protection Program eligibility to 501(c)(6) organizations. It also calls for the following PPP-related provisions:

  1. Reauthorize until at least March 31, 2021;
  2. Include 501(c)(6) nonprofits in the so-called “second draw” program;
  3. Expand the definition for eligible “receipts” within the “second draw” program to include in-person event cancellations and lost revenue from certification programs and other education; and
  4. Apply lobbying language as outlined in Section 90001 of the HEROES Act and included in the broadly bipartisan Local Chamber, Tourism, and 501(c)(6) Protection Act of 2020 (H.R. 6697).

The deadline to join this letter is Monday, September 14. Add your chamber today.

 

#ChamberStrong COVID Examples 

Congress remains deadlocked, but chambers of commerce across the country continue to create partnerships and find creative ways to support their communities through the COVID crisis.  

 

Chamber's Maintain Focus on DEI 

In the most recent edition of Chamber Executive magazine, we focused on some of the ways chambers are working to address racial equity. Here are a few more recent examples we've come across. 

  • The Greenville Chamber, working with other community stakeholders, launched the Greenville Racial Equity and Economic Mobility Commission, a group of 35 leaders working to "implement significant change in the areas of racial inequities, social justice, and other key gaps identified as focus areas of the Black community."
  • The Quad Cities Chamber highlighted diversity, equity and inclusion during its virtual annual meeting and launched a DEI toolkit to provide member businesses with a framework for action. 
  • San Angelo Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Walt Koenig recently published an op-ed to outline why the chamber’s board supports and encourages all community businesses to practice diversity, inclusion and equity in daily operations, hiring, development, and promotion decisions. 
  • The Greensboro Chamber’s State of Our Community event focused on COVID-19 recovery and how the community must address racial and economic divides as part of the recovery process. 
  • The United States recently celebrated the anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance focused an episode of its podcast on renewing “The Dream” through educational equity, inclusive entrepreneurship and economic access. 

What We're Reading 

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The Week's #ChamberStrong COVID News

Will Burns on Friday, August 28, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

Summer is coming to a close, but chambers of commerce remain hard at work, supporting local businesses and promoting economic recovery. Here are a few recent examples we noticed this week:

  • Commerce Lexington’s access loan program has approved $2,187,230 in grants to 151 businesses, an average of almost $14,500 per business. The $2.5 million small business stimulus program could wrap next week, but some members of the Urban County Council already are talking about a round 2 at some point.
  • The Joplin Chamber launched the Ideas on Tap program to support those who have been laid off by with resources, programs, education, and places for people to work and start businesses of their own.
  • The Cape Cod Chamber is helping businesses in key industries like tourism adapt and identify opportunities in a changing economy.
  • The Terre Haute Chamber supporting businesses to help the downtown core evolve through the pandemic
  • Family Forward NC was launched to help businesses of all sizes adopt family-friendly policies to improve child and family well being. Ashville Area Chamber President & CEO Kit Cramer is on the Initiative’s advisory council.
  • The Metro Atlanta Chamber released the final report of its RESTORE Initiative that includes more than 120 recommendations to help Georgia recover quickly.

Keep sharing your examples with us. Email Will Burns at wburns@acce.org.

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More #ChamberStrong Examples of Community COVID Response

Will Burns on Friday, August 21, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

 This week, we continue to share a variety of examples for how chambers of commerce are supporting their communities through challenging times, from facilitating access to capital and measuring economic impact to distributing personal protective equipment and launching new initiatives to help small businesses rebound and survive.

  • The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama and city of Tuscaloosa gave a final round of funding to businesses hit hard by COVID-19 -- $84,279 in funding to 38 businesses. In all 230 Tuscaloosa businesses have received funds from the $1M the city awarded to the chamber.
  • The Durango Chamber in Colorado received $60,000 from a local resort and charitable foundation to launch programs to support local businesses, including educational programs and scholarships to cover chamber membership.
  • The Nashville Area Chamber’s Research Center created models to forecast the economic impact to the State of Tennessee and the joint Nashville and Clarksville MSAs as a result of COVID-19. View the complete analysis here.
  • The Northern Virginia Chamber launched NOVA Member Connector website to help the businesses that have been hit hardest during the COVID crisis and tell inspiring community stories.
  • The Association of Washington Business and a broad coalition of employer advocates continue to urge Washingtonians to wear face coverings in public through its Stay Safe Washington initiative.
  • The Santa Maria Valley Chamber is providing free personal protective equipment, including hand sanitizer, face masks and face shields, to struggling small businesses with 20 employees or fewer.
  • The Lincoln Chamber of Commerce partnered with the city to launch www.LNKPPE.com, a website to help connect the community with locally sources personal protective equipment.
  • The South Carolina Chamber teamed up with Duke Energy to launch a new program to help small businesses rebound and survive the COVID crisis, though targeted mentoring in crucial areas like marketing, legal support and finance.

Keep sharing your examples with us. Email Will Burns at wburns@acce.org

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Creative Ideas to Address Community Challenges

ACCE Staff on Friday, August 14, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

The U.S. Congress left town without an agreement on a new COVID-19 stimulus package, but chambers of commerce continue working to support economic recovery in the communities they serve. Here are a few interesting best practice examples we wanted to share this week:

Getting Capital to Small Businesses

Helping Businesses Reopen Safely

  • The Spartanburg Area Chamber launched a fast-turnaround testing partnership to provide businesses with access to timely, reliable and affordable COVID-19 testing.
  • The Odessa Chamber of Commerce teamed up with Discover Odessa and local arts partners to create the #MaskUpOdessa Poster Contest to encourage the community to wear masks. See the winners here.
  • The Florida State Minority Supplier Development Council, an organization founded by the Greater Miami Chamber and Greater Miami Progress Foundation, launched a platform where certified MBEs that supply PPE products can be connected with buyers.
  • The Newport Beach Chamber rolled out a free sign campaign to spread the word about the importance of wearing a mask and following social distancing guidelines.
  • Thanks to the ongoing support of member businesses, the Greenville Chamber’s Mask Up initiative continues to provide free masks to small businesses and nonprofits who need them.

Navigating School Reopening & Child Care Challenges

Helping Businesses and the Community Navigate

  • Kalispell Chamber hosted a webinar with the superintendent of the school system.
  • The Huntsville/Madison County Chamber created a Child Care Task Force to identify creative solutions for child care as schools transition to remote learning.
  • The Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama is compiling a database of child care service providers to support working parents searching for options.
  • The Missoula Chamber is conducting a child care survey and working with the United Way and Missoula Economic Partnership to develop creative solutions to address child care needs.
  • Also, view recent webinars from ACCE and the U.S. Chamber.

 

Keep sending us the great work your chambers are doing so that we can share it in future updates. Email Will Burns at wburns@acce.org.  

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National Survey to Identify Small Business Funding Programs

Will Burns on Monday, August 3, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

Economic recovery for small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic prompts a series of critical, practical questions:

  • What resources exist to support US small businesses during the on-going response and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic?
  • How many of them are capitalized by federal, state, non-profit, or philanthropic funding and have special requirements?
  • How many target micro businesses?
  • How many are focused on supporting minority business owners, veteran business owners, and woman business owners?
  • If you are helping a small business better understand their options to endure the economic impacts of the pandemic, what resources exist in your state?

ACCE is working with several national organizations to ask our members to help gather this information so it can be readily accessed from a single source.

Please share this message and link with your network of funding resources – community foundation, local CDFI, etc. Completing this questionnaire should take less than five minutes and it will yield significant insights regarding the available support for small businesses across our nation.  It is anticipated that a wide range of vital resources will be identified through the broad networks of business and economic development partners.

Here is the survey link: https://forms.gle/VUbkdWwnE29GE1sGA

This questionnaire will remain open for input until August 14.

Since we are partnering with multiple organizations, it is possible that you will receive a request to complete this more than once.  Please complete the form only once.  

Thank you for helping us canvas the nation to identify vital resources to support our nation’s small businesses.

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Congress to Take Up Next COVID Relief Bill We Need Your Voice

Will Burns on Monday, July 20, 2020 at 12:00:00 am 

Congress returns this week and is expected to begin debating the details of the next COVID relief package.

According to the latest reports, the two parties remain far apart on several key issues, including expanded unemployment benefits, funding for state and local government, school funding, liability protections and more. House Democrats passed a $3 trillion Heroes Act in May. Senate Republicans are expected to introduce a $1 trillion package this week.

This fourth relief package could be the last major initiative before the election. As the debate begins, ACCE encourages you to contact your federal officials and urge them to support expanding eligibility for the Paycheck Protection Program to chambers of commerce and other 501(c)(6) organizations.

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