Today, your Chamber held its annual meeting – for the first time, virtually. Typically, this in-person meeting doubles as a grand celebration of our collective success. But, clearly, nothing is typical anymore. While anything pre COVID-19 seems like a distant blur, it is important that we still remember what we have accomplished together to drive the economic vitality of our region.
As your Board Chair Mark French remarked, coming into this pandemic, we were well positioned to weather the economic impact of COVID-19, due in part to adding 61 new members. We completed our second year of our three-year strategic plan, accomplishing more than 80% of our identified tactics; graduated our second cohort of RiseUp Springfield, our small business development program; held our first-ever cannabis conference to support this new economy, and launched a new website, which, now more than ever, will be critical to our members for accessing valuable information.
And then came COVID-19.
Within three days of the Commonwealth formulating a Command Center, your Chamber moved to remote operations without any glitches. We pivoted the Leadership Institute class of 2020 to an entirely online program; hosted more than 10 virtual events; developed a COVID-19 communications plan with over 50 valuable outreach messages while initiating a Good Newssection to market member businesses. We initiated relevant polling questions to attain the pulse of the business community, which has been used by all media outlets; connected members with more than 1.5 million pieces of PPE; met with the Baker/Polito Administration on a weekly basis; was the only area chamber that presented to the Reopening Advisory Board; launched a Spanish-language section of the website; developed a comprehensive Guide for Reopening, saving members thousands of dollars in time, energy, and consulting fees; identified more than 100 resources for businesses; completed more than 1,500 outreach calls and emails to members to check-in and offer assistance where possible; advocated for legislation supporting local businesses through this crisis, and participated in every single press conference held by Governor Baker all in just 12 weeks’ time.
But our work is not done.
Today, the Baker/Polito Administration announced a new municipal grant program to support the efforts of municipalities in creating safe outdoor dining and commerce spaces for our struggling restaurant and retail sectors.
The Federal Reserve has expanded its Main Street Lending Program to make it possible for more small and midsize businesses to receive financial loan support.
National Grid and Eversource have doubled their incentives on energy efficiency programs, agreeing to pay up to 100% of these programs for small businesses.
Statewide workforce training fund grants are available to help employers and employees adapt to the new workplace.
And we have partnered with MassInc. to survey businesses on commuting and remote work to ensure that the Commonwealth develops strategic and smart transportation policies for our region moving forward. I encourage you to lend your voice to this process.
We may have a ways to go, but we will continue to be there alongside you.
Congratulations to our newly-elected Board of Directors, and thank you to all of our members. I am humbled by your continued support of our work.
President, Springfield Regional Chamber