In March, we at the Grand Junction Chamber were increasingly aware of conversations and growing concerns surrounding a pandemic spreading in the East called COVID-19. As we evaluated the information, stayed up-to-date, and worked to continue to keep things as normal as possible, the announcement of a state-wide “Safe at Home” mandate quickly brought business-as-usual to a grinding halt.
Our team immediately recognized that as an organization that is focused on keeping our business climate strong, we needed to quickly re-evaluate how we could best serve our business community. Not only were we forced to re-evaluate our day-to-day operations, we were also faced with the same challenges many other organizations and businesses were dealing with such as working from home, home schooling our kids, and the stress of the unknown.
Together, our team quickly resolved to be the source of information, but not just any information. We felt it was vital to sort and sift through the static and provide the facts and resources our business community needed to navigate the uncertain and unprecedented times they were now facing. Within days of the shutdown, the Grand Junction Chamber had created a special Take-Out Tool Kit and Local Business Resource page, geared towards keeping local customers connected to their favorite restaurants, providing financial aid resources, employment and employee resources, and overall support to a community not sure what the next step was. Both of these resources were eventually recognized both by State and Nationwide Economic Development Organizations as industry-leading during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Grand Junction Chamber immediately became a catalyst for conversation and local information, creating the CATALYST – CONVENER – CHAMPION Webinar Series. In a time where separation was overwhelming, we brought experts, community leaders, and the business community together through virtual technology in over 20 specialized webinars focused on covering pressing topics such as financial assistance, liability, employee assistance, even coping with the stress and grief associated with the pandemic. Open to all in our business community (not just GJACC Members), this series was recognized as a leading resource, keeping our businesses moving forward in a difficult time.
It’s important to also note the efforts the GJACC has made to continually work as a convener of business leaders and economic development partners in our community to stay ahead of the fast-changing conditions seen on a daily basis. Working with partners such as the Mesa County Public Health Department, the Grand Junction Chamber was instrumental in the creation of the successful Phase 1 Reopening Plan, ultimately used as a blueprint for the rest of the State of Colorado and allowing Mesa County to be one of the first counties nationwide to reopen for business. By constantly looking forward, our efforts along with our partners, has allowed us to remain ahead of the state in each phase of reopening while most importantly, continuing to keep public safety top-of-mind. Polling was done weekly to stay in touch with members which allowed us to offer information based on priority, inform community leaders of conditions businesses were facing, and move forward in a way that both the public and businesses felt was best for all involved.
As our community heads toward the fall and looks at the next variance for reopening, we continue to be a champion for business, working closely to create ways we can keep our open signs on the door while also having one of the lowest percentages of positive COVID tests per capita in the state. With the new Mesa County Variance Protection Plan, the Grand Junction Chamber along with the Daily Sentinel and Mesa County Public Health, recognize that they only way we can prevent further mandates or worse, a backwards slide in variances, is to take the initiative and find the balance between self-monitoring safety guidelines and commerce, allowing customers and clients to feel safe, be safe, and move our community forward – together.