Concord has been rated one of the safest and best places to live, not only in New Hampshire, but in the country.
It’s been about two months since COVID-19 threw our economy into a tailspin. First there was the panic over how to survive in business with zero cash flow. Then there was the anxiety and frustration involved in understanding and navigating state and federal resources coming forth to shore up the business community. We are now entering a stage of uncertainty for the future. How will we get back to “normal” (whatever that means post pandemic)? Will this cycle continue until a vaccine is developed, and how long could that take?
The good news is that we are starting to turn the corner on reopening the economy. The dreaded surge in coronavirus cases has not materialized, so we are opening up hospitals for non-COVID related care. Currently we are cautiously opening retail, golf courses, drive in theaters and hair salons. Restaurants will be allowed to provide outdoor dining. We are working on a plan to expand the capacity for outdoor dining, and look forward to the next phase of reopening to allow for indoor seating. We are headed in the right direction.
One area of real concern has to do with the reopening of live performance venues. Cultural assets such as Capitol Center for the Arts, the Bank of NH Stage, City Auditorium, Hatbox Theatre, Red River Theatres and Concord Community Music School are under great financial stress due to the nature of their businesses and social distancing protocols. Other members in the performing arts space include the Palace Theatre in Manchester, Symphony NH in Nashua, and both the New Hampshire Master Chorale and the New Hampshire Music Festival in Plymouth. These are organizations that pump millions into our economy and many have played a key role in the revitalization of Concord’s expanding nightlife scene, as well as the expansion of Main Street. They need our support now more than ever.
In this new “COVID economy” the Chamber has pivoted pretty dramatically in terms of priorities and delivery of services. Chambers are by nature convenors, and traditional means of convening are not consistent with social distancing protocols. Committee meetings and events are conducted on Zoom. The wrap up session days for Capital Area Student Leadership and Leadership Greater Concord went to a virtual format, as did the last Concord Young Professionals Network (CYPN) networking event. We have ramped up our educational programs, offering two webinars on average per week. The content for these is focused on providing practical guidance in navigating resources at the state and federal level, program compliance to achieve maximum forgiveness for federal loans, cybersecurity for the remote workplace, mental health strategies while in social isolation and much more. These webinars are content rich, free to all and available 24/7 on the Chamber website for anyone who cannot participate in the live session. Go to ConcordNHChamber.com and check out the upcoming webinars found under The Chamber tab, Resources section and Webinars for businesses page.
Chambers across the state enjoy an excellent working relationship with one another. This has proven to be particularly advantageous as we advocate for the needs of business during the pandemic. Collectively, the Chambers represent thousands of New Hampshire businesses. We listen to their concerns and needs and are able to speak on their behalf to leadership at both the state and federal levels. We have had regular conference calls with Senators Shaheen and Hassan, Congresswoman Kuster and Congressman Pappas. We’ve been able to articulate where the CARES Act worked and where it needed to be tweaked for businesses that fell through the cracks. Similarly, we hold a weekly conference call with NH Business and Economic Affairs (BEA) Commissioner Taylor Caswell (the Governor has participated as well) to share ideas and feedback relative to navigating NH Employment Security programs for businesses. We have a seat at the table for planning the reopening protocols for business and have been advocating on behalf of business for access to the $1.25 billion in federal aid coming to the state.
It has been a uniquely challenging time—know that we remain committed to serving the needs of the Greater Concord business community and our valued members and to advocate on your behalf. We are in this together and we will see it through. Onward!
Tim Sink is the President of the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce. Read his posts at ConcordNHChamber.com/blog.