Chamber Leads the Way on Being "Battenkill Strong"
The Eagle Press
For many, this past weekend was when the reality of quarantine really began to set in. After Governor Cuomo took several actions last week to shutter non-essential businesses in an attempt to limit the spread of COVID-19, small business owners in the area could do little but wait for news and worry about their financial stability. For Greater Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Managing Director Kelly Stephen Eustis, this weekend was when he decided he and his organization needed to help. "I came up with the concept on Sunday morning, registered the domain, did a lot of research, built the site, and it was ready to launch on Monday morning. www.battenkillstrong.org was inspired by other chambers around the country who are doing whatever they can to provided resources to their members, local businsesses, and the community at large," Eustis said in an email to The Eagle Press. "We are a smaller chamber of commerce, having one staffer and 170 members, but can make a difference by utilizing our resources to the fullest capability. Updates are done continuously as every day brings a new development and the government response is every-changing," he said.
Right now, the site boasts a list of "Social Distance Dining" options, resources for businesses, community and health updates, as well as a business impact survey. It houses one of the only multi-town lists of area restaurants, indicating which are open for take out and delivery in the COVID era. Eustis hopes to see the site grow into more than just a single chamber's resource. "Ideally I'd like to create more of an alliance with other local chambers as seen in other regions. There is power in numbers. Working together, pooling resources, and becoming more centralized would only benefit our communities as a great place to do business." Eustis highlighted the survey on the site, which has informed some of his Battenkill Strong activity. "Our membership is made up of retail, manufacturing, non-profits, and agriculture so we have an array of how this crisis has affected them, some more than others. Based on impact survey results, only 25% of our members had an emergency operations plan. Event cancellations, visitor declines, and supply chain concerns have affected most of our businesses and organizations. Almost half have had to lay off employees and a majority are seeing reduced revenues. 75% have stated they look to the chamber for resources and crisis communications." These numbers give Eustis much reason for pause.
"For small towns, this disruption is substantial, and the discussion of recovery efforts are going to be key. That discussion needs to begin now. We are a resiliant nation, especially in areas like ours, and can bounce back by working together. Rural communities are more accustomed to working with local suppliers. I believe we will see a big upswing in business when restrictions are lifted, especially in restaurants, hospitality ,and businesses relying on tourism." Until the brunt of this situation passes and economic recovery is more than a far off dream, Eustis saw value in the Chamber's technological resources for many of the area's smaller businesses. "The idea (for Battenkill Strong) was to be a clearinghouse for information and to point folks in the right direction to localized updates," Eustis said. "One of the biggest challenges for businesses in upstate New York, especially during a time when reduced to working remotely, are cell phone and internet services. Businesses across America have had to adjust, become more adaptable and creative, and are using the internet to stay afloat. Having said that, it is more difficult when there are limited services, especially in our area. There are many businesses who do not have websites, primarily rely on Facebook, and switching to an online platform for orders can be difficult if not technologically savvy. This unprecedented rift in daily life is a wake-up call to some, perhaps pushing them to do what they have not done before in order to continue operating." Those interested in having their business information listed on battenkillstrong.org, or offering their assistance with the endeavor should contact Eustis at email@example.com