MIAMI COUNTY — Local Chambers of Commerce are continuing to advocate for businesses in the community, while taking on new hats as they try to help guide businesses through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our role hasn’t change much — the number one role of a chamber is to advocate for local business,” Executive Director Kathi Roetter of the Troy Area Chamber of Commerce said. “That is what we are doing during the pandemic. We have been sharing local stories with our elected officials, lobbying for assistance for small businesses, and sharing COVID-19 resources.”
The Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce is also focused on the legislative issues and finding ways to help local businesses that remain open. Executive Director Kathy Sherman of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce said one example of how they’re helping local businesses is by processing new information as it becomes available and being prepared to answer questions.
“I believe that it is our responsibility to keep our members informed of the ever-changing programs and opportunities available to them as small businesses,” Sherman said. “Our business owners have enough on their ‘plate’ with keeping their employees safe and well, dealing with the daily changes they are faced with, and keeping their doors open. It is our duty to disseminate the mass amounts of new information on a daily basis, attend the conference calls and webinars in order to provide the updates to our members, and also be able to answer their questions or direct them to the departments, whether statewide or nationally, that can provide the information to them.”
As part of that assistance, the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce is providing daily briefings on COVID-19 updates to their members, recapping all of the national, state, and local information that was collected over the previous 24 hours.
“The briefings include updated loan program information, local health department updates, manufacturers information and any other pertinent information that was gathered through the various channels that the chamber is connected to on a daily basis,” Sherman said. “If we can distribute the most current information and provide a peace of mind that our members have the information needed, they can move onto other work-related responsibilities quicker.”
The daily briefings also allow the chamber to reaffirm its commitment to helping businesses respond to the coronavirus so they “can support your employees, customers, members, and communities.”
“Our community is strong, and when things get difficult, we pull together,” Sherman said. “We support one another, we do business locally, we stay connected, and we share resources. There is strength in our Piqua community, and it shines even during a pandemic.”
Both chambers are sharing resources daily with their members, particularly in regard to the various disaster loan programs available through the Small Business Administration and other federal loans.
“These programs are essential to our local businesses and are available immediately,” Sherman said. “We are providing them with current information including how and where to apply for the loans, what loans are available, and when to apply, as well as answering questions on COVID-19.”
“First and foremost, we are communicating often with our members,” Roetter said. “We’ve created a COVID-19 resource page for businesses, but also for the community. We’ve been providing weekly virtual meetings to share information on federal loan programs, HR webinars, and information on handling change.” Roetter added they are providing virtual training and networking options to their members, as well.
They have also been highlighting which businesses, especially restaurants, remain open to the public.
“The Troy Chamber started a Troy Take Out Blitz in an effort to communicate to the public that our restaurants are still open,” Roetter said. “We have a group and keep an up-to-date list of the restaurants that are providing carry out, delivery, curbside pick up and more.” Roetter added they are launching a page called “Troy Is Open For Business” in order “to showcase local businesses and to share behind the scenes stories of the people who are behind the scenes providing services to our community.”
Sherman said they are promoting businesses whose lobbies and physical stores may be closed but are still able to do business through online ordering, deliveries, and/or curbside pickup through the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Shop Local” email notifications.
“We have been notified by our members that business has been created by these marketing pieces,” Sherman said.
While making it through the ongoing pandemic is the main focus, businesses are also looking to the future toward the recovery end of this period of time. While some are optimistic about bouncing back, others have more reservations about the future or consider themselves “under duress.”
“Our members are coping but are concerned about the long term,” Roetter said. “Many businesses have found alternative ways to reach their customer base but have also had to lay employees off.”
Roetter said they recently surveyed their members, 53 percent were “tentative about how this would affect them, they felt like they had a plan in place but worried about the long term,” while 27 percent of their members were “worried or under duress.”
“As the days go by, we hear from more businesses that are concerned about what the comeback looks like and when it might happen,” Roetter said. Roetter added the chamber is working with their partners, such as Troy Main Street, “about what recovery looks like and how to help businesses get back to normal.”
Sherman said their members are also taking some time to plan for the future and how the pandemic will have affected their business operations.
“There is still so much unknown, especially when it comes to the ‘Stay at Home’ order and when will our current situation be such that the order can be lifted,” Sherman said. “They are focused on what the return to work will look like at that time, what will the supply chain issues be when they open their doors, and what do we as businesses and employees need to adapt to following the ‘Stay at Home’ order.
Sherman added an optimistic note, having faith their members will come out the other end of the pandemic and celebrate as they return to work.
“Because we are a resilient community, I foresee the day we are able to return to our brick and mortar offices as celebration days, weeks, and months! We will all be ready to bounce back,” Sherman said.