"We are the regional chamber, all of us together," said Teresa Beale, Executive Director of Franklin Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce during the spring meeting of the 757 Chamber Alliance. For two years, the six area chambers have worked together on advocacy, regionalism, and creating the conditions for businesses to succeed. Now, more than ever, businesses need these efforts to reopen and thrive. The Alliance is comprised of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Franklin Southampton Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Williamsburg Chamber and Tourism Alliance Business Council, Hampton Roads Chamber, Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, and the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce.
Hampton Roads Chamber President Bryan Stephens reviewed the goals of the Alliance. “The best way to produce a pro-business environment is to collaborate. Each partner will work to the betterment of regional economic vitality.”
The Chamber leaders shared best practices for helping members through the COVID-19 restrictions. Most have a page on their website devoted to COVID-19 resources. The Hampton Roads Chamber also has a page dedicated to COVID-19 recovery. Jessica Healy, Executive Director of Isle of Wight Chamber of Commerce, has created an online group through Facebook called BizHub. “Businesses are helping each other, promoting each other, sending clients to each other.”
Robie Marsh, Executive Director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Chamber of Commerce, has started a road to recovery webinar series. Bob McKenna, President/CEO of the Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, has been sharing podcasts with local leaders. Terry Banez, Chief Executive Officer, Greater Williamsburg Business Council, has turned her regularly scheduled meetings into virtual coffee chats with the Council. “We all need that human contact. It’s a big win.”
The six chambers work together on advocacy issues. Emily Hasty, Hampton Roads Chamber Executive Director for Governmental Affairs, briefed the alliance members on this year’s General Assembly outcomes. The group will come together in August to set legislative priorities for 2021. Hasty will lead those advocacy efforts in Richmond during the 2021 General Assembly and throughout the year.
Business recovery is every chamber’s focus now. Jim Carroll, Executive Director for the Small Business Development Center, works with each of these chamber leaders to assist members who are seeking information, access to capital, recovery plans, and counseling. He briefed the Alliance on how the SBDC can help its members. “These businesses will face four courses of action. Reopen, Close, Buy/Sell or Merge, or Reinvent.” Carroll said the SBDC is ready to help business owners make fact-based decisions rather than gut reactions. He recommends all businesses set up a 30, 60, and 90-day plan to set the course for the future.
The 757 Chamber Alliance works year-round to address the issues of concern for the business community. We are six chambers coming together as one voice of business.