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How Northwest Indiana Chambers of Commerce are helping small businesses during COVID-19 : Pt. 1

Updated: Aug 27, 2020

Three Northwest Indiana chambers – Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce, Duneland Chamber of Commerce and Gary Chamber of Commerce – discussed the resources they provide to their members and how they themselves are adapting as a chamber during this pandemic.

By: Rocio Villaseñor

The Daily 219 News Correspondent

Northwest Indiana chambers of commerce are still adapting to the changes the pandemic has brought.

According to the Indiana Chamber of Commerce business impact survey findings released on April 23, 56 percent of nearly 1,400 business leaders ranked the impact on their own business at eight, nine or ten on a scale of one to ten. The biggest effects from the survey findings were: revenue loss at 80 percent, cash flow concerns at 51 percent, suspended operations at 34 percent and employee layoffs at 32 percent.

Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce

The Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce officially came into being in January 2010.after a merger of the Crown Point and Merrillville chambers.

The Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce is the largest chamber of commerce in Lake County with around 650 members currently. The bulk of its members are from Crown Point and Merrillville, but also from Chicago and Michigan City.

Deann Patena, president and chief executive officer of Crossroads Regional Chamber of Commerce, said in a telephone interview she did not know if any of her members took the business impact survey. She shared the chamber is in the process of doing their own survey.

According to an NWI Times article from January, when Patena became president and CEO, she wanted the chamber to be the largest in Northwest Indiana and that her only goal for the chamber was growth. Patena said the pandemic has not changed this. “We still plan to grow our membership.”

Patena said none of the chamber’s members have called to tell her they have gone out of business and need to drop their membership.

She added that the chamber does not offer any financial support to its members. But they do offer other types of support on their Facebook page and website like: providing COVID-19 resource guide of grants and loans available for small businesses, informing members of remote business owners workshops, hosting webinars on crisis marketing/networking/property taxes, Zoom chamber meetings, and virtual coffee and community events. She added that they have not done Zoom meetings currently.

Patena said they continue to promote businesses and members through social media and email. “We just tried to assist by doing a lot of social media effort without charging for it. We post their offers and specials. Pretty much help market their business in any we could.”

She said that the pandemic has not changed any of the chamber’s goals. They just had to pivot and adjust their budget for the end of the year.

They have collaborated with other chambers during the pandemic. Patena said that like all other chambers and organizations, they had to close their doors to the public in March. They have their office open currently, but only receiving visits by appointment only. She added that due to the stay-at-home order they had to cancel or postpone networking events for the next few months. “We haven’t really been able to do a lot of the same things we would have done in the past.”

They canceled the Annual Corn Roast they have in Crown Point every year in June and their Business Expos in May. They will have them next year 2021. According to the chamber’s Facebook page, in July they had their first ballpark outing since March at the Railcats Stadium in Gary with post-chamber ambassadors.

Patena said the chamber is moving forward with several events. The Annual Golf Outing Sponsorship at Youche Country Club for August 26, which will be limited in attendance. The other one is the “Cheers to 10 Years” Annual Gala at the Avalon Banquet Center on November 21.

Read about the Duneland Chamber of Commerce and the Gary Chamber of Commerce

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