Crawford County businesses starting to reopen say they need help, and their chambers of commerce are setting up plans to do just that. After reviewing results of a recent COVID-19 economic impact survey, the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce is working to help businesses advertise reopenings.
The chamber partnered with the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce to launch a county-wide promotional campaign, “Put Your Money Where Your Heart Is.” The campaign encourages residents to support local businesses as they reopen and begin to rebuild their businesses buy shopping, dining, and getting the services they need locally.
“Our businesses really have done a very good job of supporting each other on social media throughout this (COVID-19 pandemic). They really show where there heart is,” said Shelly Faught, executive director of the Alma Area Chamber of Commerce.
Businesses in Van Buren, Alma and the surrounding communities adapted to restrictions placed on them by expanding on-line offerings, providing delivery and curbside service and even installing drive-through windows, Faught said.
“I’m very impressed with how they have risen to accommodate the community’s needs,” she said.
But reopening is going to be a challenge for many, survey results show.
“I believe when we do open, that it will call for this little community to have a ‘re-grand’ opening and call for everyone to shop, dine and buy local,” one respondent to Van Buren’s survey said.
A digital logo has been created for business to use on websites and social media. PAC Printing produced 50 yard signs and 50 posters with this campaign logo for owners to place in front of their business or in their storefront. The signs and posters are available on a first come/ first serve basis at PAC Printing, 711 Fayetteville Road in Van Buren, said Julie Murray, president and CEO of the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce.
Baker Broadcasting is offering free radio advertising of 15-second public service spots through the month of May for Crawford County businesses. The Van Buren Advertising and Promotion Commission produced a TV spot to promote Van Buren to the community regionally. The spot will begin running locally May 11 and continue to run through June 7. (See the video at the end of this report.)
“We’ve got radio and TV covered. We are working to meet (area businesses’) needs,” Murray said.
The Van Buren Chamber also is offering chamber members unlimited use of the Hot Deals, Events and News Release promotions on the Chamber website.
The survey showed that 50% of the respondents had their business significantly impacted by the pandemic with one on the verge of losing their business and four saying they have closed their business.
“Several of these businesses were forced to close (because of the pandemic). Look at salons being closed for six weeks. That’s a big portion of your revenue. I’m surprised it wasn’t a higher number who have to close,” Murray said.
Of the 70 respondents to the Van Buren survey, 58.3% said one of their biggest challenges in returning to “normal” business operations is going to be retaining customers. Other concerns are cash flow (45%); bringing back employees (23.3%); availability of vendors or supply chain (28.3%); and ramping up production/service to meet new demand (8.3%). Business owners, like customers, are concerned with the virus and keeping things, Murray said.
“It will take time to feel completely comfortable, but if everyone takes precautions, practices social distancing, wears masks, we will regain little by little. (Business and customers) won’t come back in a big rush, but it will come back,” she said.
A suggestion that came from the survey results was to host a business forum for sharing ideas, Murray said. The chambers will join together to host The Virtual Business Forum: Sharing Best Practices for Re-Opening at 9:30 a.m., May 11.