COVID, Community and the Jeffersontown Chamber
Writer / Deana Karem, President, Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce
In March of 2020 the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce reached 1,000 members. There was a lot of excitement about achieving this milestone and great anticipation for what would come next. The City of Jeffersontown remained booming, and reaping the benefits of a number of new business attraction projects creating jobs and filling up buildings.
The chamber staff and board of directors were excited as they hosted the annual dinner and celebrated another amazing Gaslight Festival. The year was still new and filled with fresh ideas, new expectations and renewed excitement about what would come next.
Off in the distance there was a buzz in the news about a global pandemic coming to the states. There were news stories about mask wearing, a pause on global travel and predictions of economic change. Many of us thought, “It’ll just take a few weeks to get past this, and Kentucky will be spared because global pandemics don’t happen in Louisville, Kentucky.”
Then, there it was. For the safety of our families, friends, co-workers, students and customers, we had to shelter in place. Wear masks. Coach our kids on algebra. Wipe down groceries. No more community gatherings and no more business networking.
Well, as a chamber of commerce, what do you think we did? We’re all about gathering and we’re all about networking. We thought, “What do we do now? How do we serve? How do we support our business leaders and provide calm and compassion for each other, even when we are worried about our own destiny?”
Never before have chambers had to think differently and rally around community and business needs. Chambers across the country were reimagining ways to serve their members and add value. Some were accessing personal protective equipment in bulk so they could get it out to companies for use by their employees and customers. Some were developing loan programs to help businesses stay afloat. Chambers were utilizing virtual technology for networking opportunities, while others were developing workforce strategies to help fill frontline jobs with people who were being laid off from other industry positions. Some chambers were doing all of this at once. At times it seemed like organized chaos.
The Jeffersontown Chamber is proud of the role we played to support businesses. By July of 2020 we were past the shock of the initial crisis, and delivering new opportunities for businesses to connect. We created a COVID resource guide to help companies access loan funds, business counseling and emotional support.
We hosted weekly Chamber Chats to offer connection to one another. We started a COVID series focused on how to manage employees through a pandemic and how to reach customers when you can’t have them on-site. We re-initiated our job board, and upgraded our technology so our own staff could be more resourceful in serving businesses. We held as many traditional events as we could through online platforms. We even created virtual events for the 2020 Gaslight Festival just so we could keep some sense of tradition given the conditions we were experiencing.
Today it feels like we might be coming out of this pandemic, and our Jeffersontown Chamber is better for it. As hard as it has been, it gave us a chance to clean closets and file cabinets so we get to start anew. We learned our chamber is more than cocktails and coffee meetings. We are resourceful problem solvers and creative leaders. We are tech-savvy pioneers in managing groups of people via Zoom. We are experienced professionals who care about our community, and will go to extreme lengths to find ways to support our companies.
This relentless virus taught us to be ready for anything. My predecessor did an amazing job preparing for a crisis. We didn’t have to let any of our staff go, and in fact have been able to keep all of our positions and even grow by one.
Now, in 2022, the Jeffersontown Chamber has launched a new brand with a bold, fresh look. It reflects our new self-worth and our fearlessness in serving others. We continue to grow our membership and develop new partnerships so we can expand the brands of our own members.
This year we are focused on celebrating the businesses of the Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce. We encourage residents to buy from chamber members because when a company invests in a chamber, they are investing in community. And community means more now than ever.
As of spring 2022, we are a better, wiser, stronger, more creative, more resourceful and more compassionate Jeffersontown Chamber of Commerce. We have just as much to celebrate as we did two years ago, and we do that on the shoulders of the amazing companies that invest in our work and in our community. We appreciate each one of them!