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When COVID-19 hit the community hard, the staff at the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce partnered with the community to keep bsuiness doors open

RAMONA MCCALLISTER - Pictured left, Amy Hurt, office administrator and Kim Daniels, executive director for the Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce, stand in front of the world map they placed in the lobby of the chamber office. The map allows visitors to place a pin on the map where they are from.

The Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce has been a pivotal resource during the last six to eight months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Once COVID-19 hit, we kind of turned into more of a resource, because people didn't know where to get their information, what was valid, and what was happening – so through our email newsletter and through our Facebook page, those were the two main places we started immediately with getting information out," commented Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kim Daniels.

With a revision to their website, Daniels said that they added a page where they could update business information.

"We did all that for the first two months," she added.

The next thing that they had to do was to cancel events or move them online. All the Prineville Perks were moved online through Zoom.

"Facebook Live has been a great tool. Zoom has been a great tool," Daniels stated. "We are continuing to do that with events, but we are also finally in the stage with partnerships with different people around town. With the approval of my board and the blessing of the health department, I am going to start meeting with people and talking to see, 'How can we start doing events again?'"

Daniels indicated that events would look different, and they are considering how they can continue to do events that people enjoy. She gave the example of the Candy Crawl, which normally is over a four-to-five-hour period and in different locations around town in Prineville on Halloween.

"If our businesses can just stick to the rules of wearing masks and not having too many people in, we can do it," she emphasized. "We just have to have the public agree that they will abide by the rules, and we have to have our businesses agree to continue to follow whatever restrictions are in place. We are planning on doing Candy Crawl."

She added that they are also having conversations with restaurants to look at the possibility of having the Mac 'N Cheese Cook-off. Last year, the event was held at the Crook County Fairgrounds and was attended by approximately 600 to 700 people.

"Our plan for this year is not to hold it at the fairgrounds, but to maybe do a walk-in tour."

Since most of the restaurants are in the downtown corridor, they will ask all the restaurants if they would like to participate and be part of the cook-off. The event is in the planning stages, and Daniels indicated that they are looking at some different ways of doing the cook-off, even though there would not be live music and it could not be done as a large gathering.

"It's not how we did it before, which was so much fun with live music and everything else, but it's still a way of doing something and making something happen," Daniels said.

She indicated that a lot of their ideas originate from having tight connections with other chambers of commerce around the country and seeing what they are doing and what has worked well during the pandemic.

Other events they are planning on continuing are Small Business Saturday as well as the Christmas Parade.

"My goal is, as we are seeing the numbers come down and as we are seeing people adhere to some of the restrictions and the mask-wearing more, I think we will start to see more things come back, and they will look different—but I think we are going to get back to them," Daniels pointed out.

In addition, when COVID-19 first began to shut down businesses, Bryan Iverson, the head of the Downtown Association, contacted Daniels and Kelsey Lucas of Prineville/Crook County EDCO about the urgency of helping businesses. She said that they quickly got together and reached out to several of the entities in town to find who could donate toward a grant for local businesses. Daniels also reached out to Facebook, who committed $200,000. Between local business entities who donated and Facebook, they awarded grants to approximately 200 businesses total.

"Our main requirement was you had to have a business in Prineville. You had to have been in business for a period, and then you had to be licensed with the Secretary of State," noted Daniels of their requirements.

The Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce was the fiscal agent for the grant. She said that they had three rounds, and some of their recipients included some sole proprietors. They had the grant application process up and going by April 2020. On Sept. 3, they went through their final applicants for approval.

"It was a really cool program to be part of," said Daniels. "I actually was approached by several people across the nation. I had a gentleman in Chicago, a gentleman in Arizona, and I had someone on the East Coast in New Jersey contact me and ask me, 'How did you do this?'"

She indicated that Facebook was a huge supporter to make the grant happen. She felt that it was super rewarding to be able to hand out the checks to the businesses.

"It kind of felt like Santa a little bit, like being able to help businesses that are struggling and know that the check we just handed them is going to keep them open another month."

Sidebar

Prineville-Crook County Chamber of Commerce

Address: 185 NE 10th St., Prineville, OR 97754

Phone: 541-447-6304

Executive Director: Kim Daniels

Office Administrator: Amy Hurt


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