Image above: A screenshot of some of the participants of a past Nacogdoches Community Stakeholders Conference Call facilitated by Chamber President/CEO C. Wayne Mitchell. Find recorded conference calls on the Nacogdoches County Chamber YouTube channel, and find instructions to join the next call at 10 a.m, Tuesday, April 21 on the event calendar at www.Nacogdoches.org.
by Kelly Augustine, Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce
“We are in the relationship business,” is a repeated statement by C. Wayne Mitchell, President and CEO of the Nacogdoches County Chamber of Commerce. He uses the phrase to summarize the nature of the chamber of commerce, meaning “relationships” are a key ingredient in the organization’s programs and events, the foundation of the organization itself.
Even though temporary, the practice of social distancing as a way of life and a way of doing business threatens the success of the chamber, because it restricts our volunteers’ and staff’s ability to gather and conduct business.
Once faced with the reality of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, Mitchell took quick steps and presented a list of actions the chamber can do under the circumstances to preserve and expand the valuable relationships formed throughout the business community. Through an online vote, the board of directors approved the plan.
First, create a central location for businesses to access reliable information on the chamber’s web site www.Nacogdoches.org. The chamber added the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Business Resource Guide web page and populated it with information from credible sources such as our City and County offices, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“With the amount of information circulating and updates announced multiple times a day, our business leaders needed good information and the right tools to help them navigate this new territory,” Mitchell said. “We’ve received many compliments for sharing this information. Any of our businesses can find relevant materials addressing safety in work environments, applying for disaster relief funds, government issued orders, ways to support our local businesses and contact information for trusted sources.”
The resource guide has been updated daily with information and resources, and it is all available to employers, business managers and area residents.
“In the past few days we were able to distribute new information from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation for the Save Small Business Initiative. This is funding available to small businesses who are suffering because of the pandemic. We have worked to share information from our SBDC partners and local bankers to promote the disaster relief funding. The Save Small Business Fund is an additional funding source, and our area is eligible to apply for the funds.”
Another high priority item in the chamber’s plan was to engage with the business community. Through different forms of communication, the chamber staff began contacting business members, asking “how were they” and “how could we help.” Business representatives had common responses that included “let people know we are still in business, and have made modifications to our operations, and can still provide products and services.”
The chamber answered their requests by prompting them to contact The Daily Sentinel for the #NACStrong campaign and by posting the adjusted business operations in Hot Deals on the chamber website If a business had transitioned to a virtual operation or activity, the chamber or the business posted it on the online event calendar. “Our goal is to show that Nacogdoches is still doing business, safely and by following our City and County’s issued orders,” Mitchell said.
Facilitating a weekly Nacogdoches Community Stakeholders Conference Call also became a part of the chamber’s plan to support businesses.
“Giving our business community an opportunity to interact with decision makers and leaders in our area is a benefit the Nacogdoches County Chamber provides, even before the coronavirus outbreak,” Mitchell said. “The challenge we faced in March was ‘how do accomplish that objective now’ with the Stay Home, Stay Safe orders. We found the answer through an online meeting platform where community leaders can give reports and all participants have an opportunity to ask questions or prompt further discussion.”
Discussions are taking place now for U.S. Senator John Cornyn to join an upcoming Nacogdoches Community Stakeholders Conference Call. Sen. Cornyn is a welcomed addition to the list of others who have participated, including U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert, State Senator Robert Nichols, State Representative Travis Clardy, SFASU President Scott Gordon, U.S Chamber of Commerce Vice President, Congressional & Public Affairs Ron Eidshaug, Angelina College Small Business Development Center advisor Larry Cain, Nacogdoches Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Sherry Chaney Morgan, City Communications Director Amy Mehaffey, Nacogdoches Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Larissa Philpot and Nacogdoches Area United Way President/CEO Gary Lee Ashcraft.
Through innovative problem solving with input from the board of directors, committee chairmen and other volunteer leaders, the Nacogdoches County Chamber is striving to continue to work for the betterment of our businesses,” Mitchell said. “We are aware that the actions we take today will impact the future of those who work and live in Nacogdoches. The chamber plays an important role in this community, and have a responsibility to perform at our best in all business climates.”
Mitchell encourages all in the area to review the Nacogdoches County Chamber’s online Coronavirus (COVID-19) Business Resource Guide, to browse the Hot Deals listing, to support local businesses and to participate in the ongoing, online meeting interactions. Find more at www.Nacogdoches.org or all 936-560-5533. Send email messages to firstname.lastname@example.org.