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A smart recovery together

Now that we have kind of settled into a “new normal” routine, I wanted to bring you up to date on what we are doing at the Chamber to help our members and community work through these difficult times.

We closed the office on March 18 and the staff began to work from home. We transferred the chamber’s main line to our mobile phones, got on our home computers and started gathering information from various other chambers around the country. Each day, we connected with other agencies, listening to webinars, participating in Zoom meetings and simply tried to gather as many “best practices” as we could to pass on to our members.

The third week of March, we began the development of a “recovery plan,” which was kicked off by the launching of the Chamber’s COVID-19 Business Resource Page on our website to assist our members in applying seymour headshotfor disaster relief, federal and local grants, payroll assistance, and other support opportunities. Later in the week, we contacted our 900-plus members with a survey asking about how the pandemic had impacted their business. We have since gone to the next step of calling all our members to offer our help and listening to their needs.

Since we have such a diverse membership (from 1 employee to 1,500 employees) from retail to medical to high-tech to non-profits to manufacturing, there is not a “one size fits all” solution or assistance program we could implement. We felt our best way to help was to develop an information clearinghouse so our members could go find the plan and program that best fits their needs.

Once we began to see how the state’s Stay at Home order would impact certain sectors, we immediately began an aggressive “buy local” effort with #CurbsideDecatur, encouraged the purchase of gift cards, ordering flowers delivered for Mother’s Day, anniversaries, birthdays, and other creative ways to support our local merchants while the economic ripple tore through our Decatur-Morgan County.

Once our businesses started to reopen, the staff returned to the office on May 4 – although at this moment we remain closed to the public. We have rescheduled many of our events, canceled several, and continue to look for (and forward) to a time we can once again gather together. That is the hard part, we just don’t know. So, we are unable to schedule breakfast and lunch events, gathering of students for leadership events, and so on until we see what our public health crisis will look like this summer.

We have gotten pretty creative. Our popular CashMob – a group gathering to surprise a local business – was modified to ask folks to go by that business throughout the day instead of at a designated time. That spread folks out while accomplishing the same result. We selected Chel’Den's for our first retooled event and it was very successful with the goal of bringing attention to local, small businesses. Many more are in the works.

These are just a few examples, and we continue to look for ways we can help and to listen to the needs of our business community. Getting feedback from members like their encouraging the community to wear masks in their businesses or how the Chamber can tweak our communications to better deliver helpful messages tells us our membership is engaged and we all want the same thing: a smart recovery together.

We have more planned for the future, and we need our community to be part of what’s next. Please contact us if you have suggestions we can pass on to our other members and implement as an organization. Together we can move forward in a safe manner and come out the other side even stronger!

John Seymour is the president and CEO of the Decatur-Morgan County Chamber. He has served in the role since coming to Decatur in 1991 and is responsible for the overall direction and management of the Chamber. He can be reached by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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