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My Turn, Elaine Spalding: Chamber of Commerce hard at work for members in 2020

By Elaine Spalding

The Rowan Chamber would like to thank our 2020 chair of the board Gary Blabon, president of Novant Health Rowan Medical Center. He was the right leader at the right time for the Chamber.

Chair Blabon went into the year saying, “The Chamber had 20/20 vision for how we were going to serve the business community.” However, the coronavirus crisis socked us in the eye!

Even with the pandemic, the Chamber was able to provide valuable benefits to the business community.

Gary Blabon

Here are just a few of the highlights:

 • The Chamber started off the year strong with a fantastic annual gala meeting, Power In Partnership breakfasts and other events in January and February. Then, March hit.

• We had to cancel our special Salute to Agriculture Power in Partnership breakfast in March and the April PIP, which Novant Health usually sponsors.

By the May Power in Partnership with Leadership Rowan’s graduation, we were doing virtual webinars and Zoom Chamber meetings.

• The Chamber continued to serve our business community in new and creative ways in 2020 and we are proud of the work we accomplished together.

Business advocacy

• Rowan Economic Recovery Task Force: the Chamber led the formation of this task force and worked with our Community Partners to provide valuable information to businesses and displaced workers.

• County Small Business Grant Program: the Chamber and community partners advocated for a small business grant program that Rowan County government implemented from federal COVID-19 funds.

• The Chamber held 12 webinars and numerous Zoom meetings educating small businesses about how to apply for the various loans and grants. Chamber staff called over 300 members just to see how they were doing and made sure they were aware of the resources available.

• We have received excellent feedback on the communication we have provided on Gov. Roy Cooper’s phased approach to business openings and gathering restrictions.

• We held two candidate forums this year: one during the primary election for the county commission race and during the general election for the state legislature races.

Education and workforce development

• The workforce development alliance has continued to meet virtually and is matching the needs of employers with education and training resources; many of our employers are struggling to find enough workers.

• Groundhog job shadow day: we were able to place students with businesses in early February and have been working with Rowan-Salisbury Schools on virtual job shadow and internship opportunities since the new school year started in August

• The community job fair was held on Nov. 12 with virtual options for employers and job seekers.

• The talent Attraction Guide was published with our Membership Directory in conjunction with the Salisbury Post.

• Leadership Rowan class No. 28 is having a unique experience, with a local retreat at Morgan Ridge and hybrid class sessions with some in person and some virtual.

• The Agri-business Committee continued to shine the light on this important sector of our economy, even though the March Salute to Agriculture Power in Partnership and arts and farm tours had to be postponed.

Membership and marketing

• Targeted programs to better serve members: The Minority Business Council has really thrived with virtual meetings and produced a Minority Business Directory in conjunction with the Salisbury Post; Young Professionals recently started back up with virtual networking events; and Women in Business provided an excellent mix of social and professional development programs.

• Power in Partnership meetings have been without breakfast recently, and we are really missing Trinity Oaks! However, the speakers for September, October, November and December were fantastic and we appreciate everyone’s support of the webinar format.

• Ambassadors have recently begun holding ribbon cuttings with limits on attendees and practicing social distance and face coverings. There are still Chamber members requesting this service.

• Business After Hours mixers are being done virtually with some creative options such as picking up wine/cheese goodies before the event.

• Chair-elect Bob Honeycutt led a successful campaign with 51 new members and exceeded our total investment goal!

• The Dragon Boat Festival was unfortunately canceled; we’ll be back this year, bigger and better.

• Membership survey: we recently conducted a membership survey to determine how we can better serve our members in 2021.

 Financials

• We are being good stewards of our member investments and 2020 year-end financial projections are looking very positive.

The Chamber would like to thank all of our board, volunteers, members and staff. We value your input and advice and look forward to the New Year!

Please contact the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce if you would like additional information at 704-633-4221 or info@rowanchamber.com or www.rowanchamber.com.

Elaine Spalding is president of the Rowan County Chamber of Commerce.

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