As we enter fall, this would normally be a time for focusing on remaining goals for 2020 and looking head to 2021. And in spite of the continuing impact of the pandemic, that is what we are doing at the North Country Chamber. With appropriate caveats and with a notion of flexibility to adjust as needed.

On the financial side, the Chamber’s “Hail Mary pass” which was thrown in late March remains aloft. That “pass” involves a determination
to maintain our full staff and
operations through this unprecedented challenge. Never mind the substantial reductions in income from several sources. We’ll run in the red as necessary this year and figure it out next year. This compares with many Chambers that reduced their operations
when needed most or, worse yet, shut down.

And how is this act of faith working out so far? Better than expected on some fronts. Membership was anticipated to go down but instead has actually notched up, while most renewals are including the added contribution
for economic development and, in some
cases, are making straight donations toward our work. That has been very gratifying for the entire team here.

The major unknowns include the fate of several frozen state grants we counted on, the limitation of events unless virtual and the continued failure in Washington to reach a compromise that will renew the PPP forgivable loan program and open it to Chambers that have thus far been precluded from applying. If this comes soon, accessing PPP will do much to get us through the year.

But enough about us. Our reason for that Hail Mary pass was to serve our regional businesses, and fall will bring a continued commitment to maximizing our support through information, guidance, training, advocacy, and direct assistance. This includes new initiatives to add support for small businesses not yet in recovery such as our restaurants, that are losing the “relief valve” of outdoor seating.

We have also developed a comprehensive and phased plan for promotion north of the border for tourism and our airport. While awaiting the time when a reopening of the border is in the cards, messaging and outreach continues, reminding them of what they miss and how much we miss them, with quick and multi-faceted marketing ready to go when the time comes.

Similarly, on the economic development front, the conversations continue and the groundwork is being laid, preparing the way for eventual face-to-face meetings and site visits. If we continue to play our cards right, 2021 will be ripe for a number of new investments and companies.

Indeed, barring a major new development beyond our control, and assuming a border relaxation at the end of the year, I believe our area is better positioned than most and could well be primed for a strong 2021 rebound. But in the interim, as we develop plans for the months ahead, our #1 focus will continue to be on each and every individual business’ needs and challenges and how we might be of help.

Our thanks to the area business community for its support and confidence, making it possible for us to remain strong and committed. And our renewed call to let us know when and how we might be of any assistance.

Onward and upward!