From the first day that this pandemic was confirmed and the major impacts began to really take hold, the North Country Chamber has endeavored to position itself firmly and reliably as a voice and support system for regional business, playing a key role in terms of information, guidance, facilitation, advocacy, and support.

We made the Chamber website at a comprehensive source of links for help of all kinds.

We launched the “DAILY DOSE”, an e-newsletter distributed Monday-Friday to some 5,000 regional contacts on the latest news, developments and directives, as well as best practices and ways to help.

We offered e-workshops with officials and experts on federal and state support programs, with updates as they evolved.

We contacted more than 2,000 area businesses to offer help and garner feedback, leading to a number of new services through the website such as sources of supplies, how to help others, information on restaurants and other businesses doing takeout and delivery, and a “Now Hiring” site which recently led to our first Virtual Job Fair.

We directly assisted dozens of area businesses with individual questions, needs and problems, providing guidance, advice, answers, and connections.

We launched a regular series of informational webinars and Tele-Town Halls, providing direct information from federal, state and local officials, topical experts and special leaders such as our area hospital presidents.

We turned our advocacy in Washington and Albany to the specifics of various relief bills and other measures, and to assist members with specific situations.

We stepped up our collaboration with our vital partners to the north, including the Quebec government, the Canadian Consulate, the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Quebec, the Montreal Chamber and others focusing jointly on key issues important to sustaining this all important cross-border relationship through this pandemic and then beyond.

Through it all, with the solid support of our Board, the North Country Chamber has never considered any form of diminishment of its team and capacity as, unfortunately, some chambers elsewhere have done. We have directed the full efforts of our entire team to the crisis and challenges at hand, and I have never been prouder of the team I have the privilege of leading. And that’s saying a lot as they do me proud each and every day.

Going forward, we are following the framework of North Country Forward: A Plan for Supporting Business Reopening in the North Country, a strategic outline we released at the end of April. It entails active collaboration with our counties, our partner chambers and organizations such as ROOST (Regional Office of Sustainable Tourism), our state and federal officials, our northern neighbors and others, and entails on-going commitment to the following components of regional activity:

• CONTINUATION of all of the active communications and programming for the regional business community launched in March and regularly refined and updated since then.

• DIALOGUE AND INPUT with outreach earlier this month to hundreds of businesses and partners directly, supplemented by conversations through other channels as well, providing strong information which is informing our continued efforts and advocacy.

• SAFETY RESOURCE OFFICERS continuing with education, information and training, both general and also specialized by sector, to create employers who have the basic information and perspectives needed to engage in reopening and the call back of employees as soon as possible.

• TRAINING AND GUIDANCE on all related aspects of business operations from safety to human resource matters, adjusted marketing and sales approaches, financial resources and more.

• PROMOTION/MARKETING/ INFORMATION recognizing that everyone’s market place following reopening will be different than a few months ago, including very different approaches in the tourism and hospitality sector for example.

We are also representing the North Country business community either as a member of or active source of information to various federal, state and local committees and processes related to economic reopening. And our advocacy at all levels remains as active and focused as ever.

The North Country — indeed the country and beyond — has never confronted anything like what we are going through. But we have confronted other unexpected hits that could have flattened us, like the closure of Plattsburgh Air Force Base in 1995. The specific things we are doing and need to continue to do to recover from this pandemic are quite different than the specific things we did back then. But there are also things that served us well back then that will serve us well again, such as partnership and collaboration, and positive determination and resiliency.

Your regional Chamber and its network of partners are on this in every way we can be, and we will stay on it in the weeks and months ahead. Please be in touch and call upon us for help. We will continue to do all we can.


Garry Douglas is president of the North Country Chamber of Commerce.