Pandemic Reveals Strength of Connections as Chambers Inspire, Unite Their Communities

What has been surprisingly better than you expected during the current pandemic?

Angie Anderson, IOM
President/CEO
Glenwood Springs (CO) Chamber Resort Association

The COVID-19 crisis forced us to quickly focus and jump into action with no time to overanalyze. The first several weeks of the pandemic were nonstop and felt like a blur. However, when we had a moment to come up for air, it was amazing to see how much we accomplished in so little time, with limited resources and through extraordinary community partnerships.

As we continue the course, I am most pleasantly surprised by how the relationships that we built during the initial crisis have become the driving force in moving our community forward. We truly are better together.

Ernie Kos
Executive Director
Clovis/Curry County (NM) Chamber

As our businesses are facing serious financial challenges as a result of COVID, we fully expected to see a drop in members and dues. Surprisingly, during this time we have gained a number of new members, our dues are up as compared to this month last year, and we have strengthened our bond with many of our existing members.

Because of this crisis, we have very solid examples of how much the chamber can help in times of need. From being a unified voice when communicating with government leaders, to delivering patios to restaurants without outdoor seating options, our staff, board and volunteers are an invaluable source of support for our local business community and I think that is clearer now than ever.

Gail Zurek, ACE
President/CEO
Visalia (CA) Chamber

Finding the silver lining in this pandemic has been critical for our chamber. We quickly became laser-focused on our mission as a catalyst, convener and champion for immediate business needs. This gave us the freedom to stop doing some things, tighten our messaging, and show value in a virtually new way.

Our board was invigorated in helping fight for business. Not having “things to go to” meant we had to bring value beyond an event. This crisis helped show members how we fight for businesses, provide resources and pull a community together. In response, many members even upgraded their membership!

Guy Occhiogrosso
President/CEO/
Bellingham (WA) Regional Chamber

Our “chamber world” has never felt more supportive and collaborative, even though all of us have suffered losses, including canceled events, business closures and member cancellations.

We have pulled together to help each other more than I have seen in almost 15 years. Organizations like W.A.C.E. help facilitate these relationships with local and our comparable chambers.

It has been great to have nearby chambers working together more closely than ever. These people who have been mere convenient colleagues in the past are now more like partners.

This will continue moving forward with deeper alliances and even strategic mergers. This industry has an opportunity to help rebuild our businesses and communities.

Matt Mahood
President/CEO
The Silicon Valley Organization (CA)

As a middle-aged man who has always valued seeing everyone’s faces sitting at their desks, knowing people are “hard at work,” I was very skeptical about our ability to be effective working remotely, especially for this long. And I admit that I am a bit of a control freak, so seeing everyone “at work” just made me feel better. Yeah, I know, I have control issues!

But once we got everyone set up properly, established a good meeting cadence, created shared access to electronic files, successfully completed a million Zoom meetings, webinars and mixers—everyone seems to be pretty darn productive and happy. I too have enjoyed the increased personal and professional flexibility that working remotely gives me.

But, given that so much of what we do depends upon interpersonal interaction with our members and our staff; I can’t wait to get everyone back into the office!

Rachel Roy
Executive Director
Greater Sitka (AK) Chamber

As a leader of a local chamber, we are looked to for guidance, information and inspiration from our business partners and community members. Luckily, we are always finding the silver lining, even in the toughest situations.

During this pandemic we have tripled attendance at our luncheon program by offering it virtually, over 2,000 viewers on our candidate forums, had more time to spend with each member one-on-one (electronically), sent weekly COVID-19 updates, held ribbon cuttings and increased our membership base.

With less demand for daily visitor operations, our team made significant progress on collateral development for our marketing program @visitsitka allowing us to look forward to the next visitor season. “