The pandemic that is COVID-19 has changed much of what we do on a day-to-day basis in a little more than a week’s time.
This impact has had a far sweeping consequence to many businesses around the world–and of course–here in Salina.
One of the businesses that has already seen numerous changes is the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce–a non-profit organization with two different divisions including Visit Salina and 13 total employees. Not only is the Chamber trying to help its members navigate through the choppy waters of uncertainty with the economy due to COVID-19, the business is itself a small business; meaning that they are having to make some major adjustments.
Salina Area Chamber of Commerce President, Eric Brown, tells KSAL News that the first and foremost goal is to keep his staff healthy and safe. However, Brown says that due to the in-person interaction aspect of many Chamber events, it has had to postpone many upcoming events throughout March and April.
One of the biggest adjustments the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Salina are having to make: the Mid-America Farm Expo. The show was originally slated for this week, March 24, 25 and 26 and has gone uninterrupted for 55 years. However, due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s and Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s crowd guidelines, the show, which would have taken place at the Tony’s Pizza Events Center and Saline County Expo Center, has been postponed to a to be determined date.
The Chamber and Visit Salina put on the Mid-America Farm Expo and see a large amount of revenue from the show. It also provides a big economic impact for many businesses around Salina and Saline County. Brown says that they are working with their Ag Committee on finding dates further in to 2020 to have the show. However, the delay will still hurt for the time being.
Although COVID-19 has forced the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Salina to make many adjustments, it hasn’t stopped them from trying to help its member businesses. Last week, the Chamber rolled out a brand-new website, aimed at informing residents and visitors to the Salina area what options they have with the Chamber’s member businesses (mainly restaurants and retail) during the COVID-19 outbreak.
The outbreak has caused numerous businesses nationwide and here in Salina to have to change they way they operate to survive. Many restaurants now offer “to-go” or “curbside” service since the CDC’s and Gov.’s guidelines of “Social Distancing” that discourages groups of more than 50 people in an area to guard against the spread of Coronavirus.
The new Chamber website, https://www.salinakansas.org/salina-strong.html, referred to as “Salina Strong,” offers small business resources, the latest developments with COVID-19 and workforce updates with employment opportunities. The biggest feature with the new site is its restaurant take-out list.
It features Chamber member restaurants who have altered their business models to allow patrons the option of “to-go/pick-up” or “curbside” delivery. All in the effort of keeping local dollars in the Salina community.
The Salina Area Chamber of Commerce also has another idea: gift cards. The Chamber, via social media last week, encouraged residents to buy gift certificates from restaurants and retail businesses. Brown says that the idea is if you buy a gift card from a local business now, it helps that business sustain during this difficult period, while the card buyer can use the card at a later time when the government guidelines are no longer in effect.
Through it all, the Salina Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Salina look to continue to try and help local businesses through this tough period. Brown says that both organizations continue to be an ally to businesses and the Salina area, whether its helping shoppers find a new way to interact with a business, or helping a business find some small business loans to help through the economic downturn.
**If you know of a small, local business that has been greatly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, and has figured out a new way to operate, we’d like to feature them on KSAL’s weekly “Small Business Spotlight.” Contact us with business names at [email protected]**