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When government officials decided to shutter key components of the economy, area chambers of commerce shifted focus to support and providing important information to members struggling with an uncertain future.
The Dunn Area Chamber of Commerce, which closed its doors to the public on Tuesday amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, recognized the impact mass closures would have on the local economy after just one week. Administrators decided one way it could help its 347 members was to provide the latest information from federal, state and local agencies regarding the virus.
“Being we just navigated through the first week of dealing with what these closures mean, our main role right now is going to be one of an information facilitator,” Heather Lawson, executive vice president of the Dunn chamber, said.
“We’re making sure we’re providing updates coming in from the state, the Small Business Association, the health departments, through reliable sources, so we can help keep our business members aware of what’s going on.”
A large number of businesses closed due to the coronavirus with others finding any way possible to stay open. Lawson said her chamber realizes the effect shutting down businesses will have on the economy and owners.
“We’re a business, too, and we’re affected by the fact that we can’t continue with our planned events,” said Lawson. “As far as another business owner in town, I would imagine the big thing would be being to meet the needs of their business through keeping employees, paying rent and other utilities. I’m sure they’re feeling the same as everyone in terms of where is their paycheck going to come from and how long will they be able to maintain that.”
How the current shutdown impacts businesses could revolve around resources, Lawson said. Companies that managed to set aside a rainy day fund will fare better than ones facing different circumstances.
“It would depend on each individual business as to what they are able to afford to do,” Lawson said. “Some may be able to close for a couple of weeks and let this subside and get back to business as usual. But I would imagine anyone, who has any kind of inventory or employees, they have that ongoing struggle of how they’re going to keep inventory and pay employees. I imagine that would be a day by day undertaking.”
Pat Godwin, executive director of the Coats Area Chamber of Commerce, started working from home, but said her community continues to rally around local businesses that are able to stay open in some capacity.
“Consumers are really patronizing and keeping everything local,” said Godwin. “Everyone in our town is trying to help each other.”
Like Dunn, the Coats chamber set its sights on information and finding ways to meet the needs of its members through its webpage and social media. Godwin said her chamber wants to promote local businesses and encourage people to keep shopping local whenever possible.
“ are concerned right now,” Godwin said. “If they send us anything, we definitely post it to let others know. We’re trying to work with our churches to let people know what they’re doing also. We’re really trying to boost our businesses right now.”
Godwin said she expects the disruption to last a little while longer, but when it does end, people will rejoice.
“I think it’s going to be a couple more weeks that will be a struggle, but I think when it’s over everyone will appreciate businesses and each other much more,” said Godwin. “I think we’ll appreciate what normal is.”
Restaurants remain open in Coats on a pick-up, call-in basis, as well as the local pharmacy and grocery store.
Eliot Duke can be reached at email@example.com or at 910-230-2038.