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How Northwest Indiana Chambers of Commerce are helping small businesses during COVID-19 --Pt. 3

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

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.

Gary Chamber of Commerce

Charles “Chuck” Hughes, the president and chief executive officer of Gary Chamber of Commerce, said they had a small response from their members to the business impact survey. Hughes said they also do surveys periodically to see what their members “thoughts and ideas are because the membership makes the chamber.”

Gary Chamber of Commerce has about 80 to 100 members. Hughes said the chamber is on their annual renewal process right now. “We are hopeful that we’ll gain some members. We hope that we can maintain those that we have because of the pandemic.”

Hughes said some of the members have gone out of business, but did not say how many. He did say they are trying to assist the ones who have managed to hold on.” He does not know how many of his members have received COVID-19 relief, but said “several have utilized.”

Even before the pandemic, the chamber has been offering financial training workshops to the members. Hughes said the chamber is collaborating with the Indiana Black Expo since it was awarded millions of dollars by Gov. Eric J. Holcomb to support small businesses in the state. Hughes said the chamber is in the process of contacting a list of businesses in the community to let them know about financing available.

The chamber also offers economic development and business community. “We offer financial planning, financial services, and how to start a business.” He said they are “trying to find avenues of support” to keep the businesses open.

The chamber is located inside the Majestic Star Casino, so their operations were shut down because of the stay-at-home rule. Hughes said they are in the process of reorganizing themselves but are fully operational now. In the chamber’s July newsletter, it was mentioned that individuals have to call beforehand if they plan to visit the chamber.

“Nothing will change our goals,” Hughes emphasized. “We try to do whatever we can within the chamber’s purview in order to assist them to keep them operational.”

The networking events like lunches and special events have impacted the chamber since large crowds are against the law right now Hughes said. The chamber still services their members by offering them advice, suggestions and information when they call. They also still assist their members with open houses, events and activities that they choose to do.

According to the chamber’s August newsletter, the “economic/business development committee hosted U.S. Senator Todd Young and his staff in a virtual conversation to hear different perspectives from Northwest Indiana business owners, community leaders and concerned citizens. The Zoom event allowed those in attendance the opportunity to share the many concerns as a community with Senator Young and find a positive solution.”

“The chamber is working hand-in-hand with the city because we are interested in maintaining a business base here in Gary which will help the tax base [and] help this city be able to meet many of its needs,” Hughes said. He added that the Mayor Jerome Prince is encouraging members to become members of the chamber.

Read about Crossroads Regional Chamber and Duneland Chamber.

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