For many science fiction enthusiasts, today is commonly known as Star Wars Day. For the Gwinnett Chamber, today eclipses one year returning back to work COVID free. Fourteen months ago, the world reckoned with a global pandemic that reimagined nearly every aspect life: family, friends, work, health, spirituality and community. Terms like social distancing, zoom, PPE, and quarantine were embedded in our daily vocabulary. At the Gwinnett Chamber, we allowed staff to work from home but still kept our doors open for business. We also pivoted to hosting virtual and hybrid events. We asked staff to return by May 4th.
While some may have questioned our decision to be the first chamber of commerce in North America to be fully staffed and host in-person events, our membership engagements and our community partnerships enabled us to exceed expectations:
-The chamber requested our local governments to release consistent essential business guidance.
-The chamber set up a 24-hour call center during the first month of the pandemic.
-The chamber created the COVID-19 Small Business Resources page.
-The chamber has continued in-person certificates of origin requests.
-The chamber established COVID protocols for employees and guests.
-The chamber welcomed over 300 new members.
-The chamber supported 52 ribbon cuttings.
-The chamber hosted 15 small business webinars, seminars, and crash courses for small businesses on the Paycheck Protection Program, Targeted Economic Injury Disaster Loans, Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, and more.
-The chamber expanded our partnership via memorandums of understanding with the Korean-American Chamber of Commerce of Atlanta-Georgia, Italy America Chamber of Commerce Southeast Georgia Chapter, andGeorgia Vietnamese American Chamber of Commerce.
-The chamber safely co-hosted the largest chamber event this year at our annual State of the County (500+ attendees).
-The chamber shared best practices for conducting hybrid events with the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
So why return back to work so soon? Maybe we were naïve. Maybe we were overly optimistic like Han Solo was when he steered the Millennium Falcon through a field of asteroids notwithstanding C3PO’s odds of survival. Or maybe we were called to serve as the first responders of business continuity during a year when local businesses needed support more than ever. And despite the odds, we flourished through 365 days fully staffed, back to work for you, our members. Thank you for trusting us this past year to provide safe and meaningful ways to network, learn, engage, and grow. As your first responders, we will continue to follow our mission to champion business. May the fourth be with you.