It was a lifetime ago when I fretted with my colleagues at the Brewster, Chatham, Eastham and Harwich chambers of commerce about what to do with our annual Lower Cape Home and Garden Show at the start of this pandemic.
In the ensuing months our jobs changed from community connectors to PPP and PPE navigators. Now our industry has changed dramatically nationwide, especially in areas with strict restrictions on gatherings.
Gatherings? Remember those?! We were the business party planners! At Orleans Chamber of Commerce, I’ve hosted it all from Coffee Breaks, After Hours, annual meetings, dinner meetings, Lunch and Learns, workshops, legislative updates, Surf Film Fests, pancake breakfasts, Fun Runs, ribbon cuttings and there’s probably more.
We chamber execs can always find a reason to get business people together. That was our job. Hopefully, we will return to giving business owners an excuse to take a night off very soon.
March, April and May we spent frantically organizing and communicating the flood of information received from all of our national, state and local partners while trying to guide our members on where they could find answers, equipment or whatever they needed. In Orleans we called our members to communicate their operating status on our website for local customers to understand who offered takeout, how to buy curbside, mainly, how to continue supporting our local business community.
On July 6 after the governor moved us to Phase 3: Step 1 of the reopening process, I could finally focus on what our Orleans Chamber of Commerce 2.0 would look like. Fortunately, our board adopted a tiered dues structure which allows members to pay for a selected package of benefits way back in 2018. We restructured our value proposition to include benefits that do not require business owners to attend any events if they don’t want to or can’t. Our board selected benefits they knew would be attractive to all industries, no matter their focus. Take a look at orleanscapecod.org/join-the-chamber/ to see what we offer.
Still, we have to pivot to keep our chamber moving forward. I’m really excited about our focus toward more business support activities for our members while continuing our tourism promotion and visitor management services.
Speaking about tourism promotion, our friends at the Yarmouth Chamber of Commerce nimbly produced a new virtual visitor center to let website users “explore Yarmouth without leaving home”. They gathered a long list of interesting online properties about all things Yarmouth, categorized it with Explore, Engage and Educate and created an interactive directory at yarmouthcapecod.com. I’m impressed!
At the Orleans Chamber of Commerce our staff has liaised between our members and the Orleans Select Board, Health Board and Health Department to convey the needs of our local business community to policy makers and provide an understanding of how the town can help our local businesses weather this terrible storm. Our friends at the Falmouth Chamber of Commerce had their hands full with similar work, guiding the town through their decision on whether it was best to close a section of Main St. to traffic and conveying the nuances of how the decision would affect businesses in the area.
We’ve begun a new “Business Owners Huddle” virtual group for our members and members of the Harwich Chamber of Commerce, to come together and continue to answer the big question of “What’s Next for 2021?” Topics to be covered include “Funding and Resources for your Business in an Uncertain Climate” and “Effective Marketing with No Budget” among other timely issues. Pick a session and join us!
We’re running our Virtual Cash Mob encouraging community members to buy local at our retailers. Members submit items to be featured in our newsletter and social media about the Cash Mob. We’re asking Mobbers to spend $20 online or in person at shops in Orleans.
We held a virtual legislative update for our members with state Rep. Sarah Peake on Oct. 8. Peake always provides our members with the why behind what’s happening on Beacon Hill and answers their pressing questions. We’re hosting another Legislative Update on Oct. 29, at 11 a.m. with our partners the Retailers Association of Massachusetts. Bill Rennie, vice president of RAM, will educate our members on current issues of concern that they must be aware of, no matter their business type.
Our Hardship Fund is still available for any Orleans business to apply for an operating support grant up to $200 to pay for their phone or utility bill. The funds were donated by the Orleans Police Relief Association and we are grateful for their support.
I’m really looking forward to what the Orleans Chamber of Commerce 2.0 will be, and to see what my chamber colleagues will accomplish in their towns.
If your business is not a member of your local chamber, please join today! We look forward to helping you.
Noelle Pina is executive director of the Orleans Chamber of Commerce.
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