Sandy area chamber works to build back businesses, programs stronger
Over the course of the pandemic, the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce has not remained unscathed. The business resource itself had its own challenges, but has seemingly pulled through and come back with even more ways to serve its community — members and nonmembers.
Last year, the chamber took on the task of operating a Business Recovery Center for small businesses impacted by COVID-19, economically and otherwise. This program was first funded by Clackamas County, then when that funding expired at the end of March, ARPA funding, sponsored by Sen. Chuck Thomsen, kicked in.
Through ARPA, the center recently was able to use $200,000 to distribute grants to businesses in need from Government Camp to Boring.
Executive Director Khrys Jones said with this program the center was able to give financial assistance in lumps of $3,000 to $10,000 to about 46 businesses.
The majority went to businesses in industries like tourism, food, fitness and other hospitality related services.
"During the shutdown, certain types of businesses were disproportionately impacted, some having to entirely not operate," Jones said, explaining that these were the kinds of businesses first on the list for grant assistance.
For the program there wasn't any means testing, businesses didn't have to prove the pandemic's economic impact on them; they qualified based on their industry and meeting the application requirements.
"Probably 75% were from travel, tourism and fitness businesses," Jones said. "Some of these businesses are still feeling the impacts of the pandemic."
"We had a good turnout from the mountain communities, as well," said BRC program consultant Shannon Givens.
The city of Sandy also has provided some money for the center through special service contract funds.
Besides this grant program, the business recovery center has been offering assistance in the form of providing PPE, connecting businesses to other available financial resources, referring businesses to organizations that can help them with marketing or with their taxes, helping businesses promote job openings and more.
Last winter the chamber and the center partnered with other local chambers to produce a passport for community members to use, to encourage shopping locally. For each purchase at a participating small business, consumers got a stamp and a step closer to a potential prize. The center plans to implement the program again this winter.
Aside from helping for-profit businesses, the center also has been working to help nonprofit organizations recruit volunteers and promote donations.
"Nonprofits missed out on fundraising opportunities when they couldn't host events during the pandemic," Jones said. "So one way we're helping is by working with nonprofits to make sure they have an online donation portal."
The chamber is contracted to facilitate the business recovery center through May 2024, dependent on funds available and assessed need.
Regardless of its role in business recovery through this new program, the chamber also continues to independently support local Sandy area businesses, as is its mission. This year, the chamber staff was able to reboot their usual monthly programs, including the early-risers networking event Moring Perk, the Lunch and Learn and the networking mixer REACH (Relationships Established at Cocktail Hour).
Jones added that the chamber is always looking for hosts for Morning Perk and REACH and presenters for Morning Perk and Lunch and Learn.
"It's been great (to be back at this level)," Jones said. "It's nice to see everyone again. At each event we're picking up more attendees."
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