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Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce looks to bring director back on full-time, provide virtual networking opportunities

As it has been for the overall business community, 2020 has been a challenging year for the Sandy Area Chamber of Commerce.

When restrictions on businesses began to affect membership dues back in March, the chamber board decided to temporarily lay off its executive director. The director, Khrys Jones, was involved in this decision, and advocated for keeping the chamber's part-time marketing specialist on the payroll to help promote local businesses throughout this difficult time.

"The reality for the chamber is that we haven't completely closed our doors, but we basically have no funding at all at this point," Board President Lisa Foster explained. "We get a lot of phone calls about what the climate is with COVID (restrictions), referrals, that sort of thing. We are trying to keep a presence there. The chamber has been working on a year-to-year shoestring budget for a few years now. Anything that shoots down our Music Fair and Feast … can really affect our bottom line and what kind of events and functions we can do. It has been an ongoing struggle for a while now."

"It's been really weird not having as much to do with the chamber," Jones said. "It's opened up other areas (of my life) but I do miss talking with the members. It's hard to have to redirect people."

That said, Jones has still been involved with the business community in a volunteer capacity. Though she can't dedicate the 40 hours she was once paid for, she has been spending 10-plus hours a week speaking with business owners in need, working to make sure marketing specialist Shannon Givens has what she needs and maintaining Sandy's presence with the Oregon state chamber.

A fortunate recent development for the chamber may mean Jones could return to her paid position before 2020 is over. On Oct. 5, Sandy City Council approved a request for funding from the chamber for $45,000.

This money will be sourced from the city's reserved allotment of Coronavirus Relief Funds (CRF) from the federal stimulus package-provided CARES Act. The city was allocated approximately $325,000 in coronavirus relief funds, of which $182,970 is remaining. The funds must be used prior to Dec. 31, 2020.

"I want to say how important I think our chamber of commerce is to our community here in Sandy," Mayor Stan Pulliam said at the Oct. 5 meeting. "They play a very important part in our sense of community and helping out our local small businesses and for referrals and jobs and notoriety."

"We have a chamber that needs more revenue streams both in the short term and long term to be successful," Pulliam added, noting that the chamber's aid to the business community is all connected to the success of the other aspects of the community.

The funds designated to the chamber will be used through the end of the fiscal year, into August 2021.

Jones is excited about the prospect of not only being paid again but being able to dedicate more time to helping chamber members.

"I'm excited to get back to doing what I love," Jones said. "It'll be different right now, but we have thing in place to remain active. I think the board has really stepped up and so has Shannon (in this time). I feel they're supporting the business community. I still feel like we've been able to help, (though) it really was the networking aspect that was set aside (because of COVID)."

Though Jones admits that COVID restrictions will no doubt hinder the networking events the chamber became accustomed to hosting, at least until the county enters phase 2, she and the chamber board members still plan to do as much for their members as possible virtually and in-person with limited capacity.

"A lot of the members just want to be heard," Jones explained, adding that the first of several virtual events likely to be held is scheduled for Oct. 21.

On Wednesday, Oct. 21, Paula Siverly with Caliber Home Loans will host the first virtual Good Morning Sandy event via Zoom. The event is planned as it would be in-person, consisting of a 15- to 20-minute presentation by Siverly, time for other members to discuss what they have going on and a raffle, which people can enter when they register for the event.

"We'll make it fun like we did before," Jones said. "It's going to look different because it'll be virtual, but it'll be the same content. We just want people to know we're still here and we're not giving up on the community or the businesses. We're still looking for ways to provide for them, even if not in our traditional, in-person ways."

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