Charles Wood, the Chamber’s Vice President of Economic Development, joined local business leaders this week on WUTC to discuss the aftermath of COVID-19. With WUTC’s Ray Bassett, Wood addressed how tornados impacted the Chattanooga area, what reopening may look like for businesses and how you can join the Chattanooga To Go campaign.
Listen on WUTC here.
“It's been impressive to see the community rally at a time when it's hard to do that, especially if you think about the responsibilities around social distancing,” Wood says.
Amid the COVID-19 crisis, tornados damaged multiple Chattanooga neighborhoods over Easter weekend. Wood explains how many of the Chamber’s members came together to meet the needs of the community during that time.
“The folks from 3H Group with the Moxy hotel in downtown and the Marriott SpringHill Suites have all engaged with the American Red Cross,” Wood says. “So, we've seen the hospitality sector kind of step up in a time when they are themselves hurting.”
As May approaches, cities all over the country are beginning to create reopening plans.
“I will say we're starting to have some conversations about how we can position ourselves for reopening and getting back to work,” Wood says.
As Wood mentioned, it will take some time before Chattanooga can gear back up to operate as normal, but the Chamber will continue to focus on strategic ways to support small businesses.
“One restaurant owner who has a number of restaurants in Chattanooga had to lay off 800 employees,” Wood says. “These are people that help him build his company, so you can't just flip the switch and hire 800 people all at one time.”
“If you think about the level of anxiety and concern that these business owners have in Chattanooga and around the country, it is a really difficult time,” Wood says.
Wood goes on to explain how local businesses are creating virtual experiences to engage their homebound audience. Going forward, businesses should keep making an effort to maintain trust with their customers on social media.
“During the recession in 2008 and 2009, companies were communicating with people who weren't in a position to make buying decisions, but people were still paying attention to messages that were being sent to them,” Wood says.
“Chattanooga is very fortunate because we have such a diverse market from an economic standpoint,” Wood says.
The Chamber’s buy local Chattanooga To Go campaign recently launched to help businesses through the recovery phase of COVID-19. With the campaign, the Chamber hopes to create a local social media culture that promotes shopping safely.
To participate, post a picture of you or a business owner delivering goods using all recommended safety precautions – at least 6 feet away, with each person wearing a mask (if possible) and add a hashtag. Then, challenge three friends or co-workers to do the same with at least three more people.
Along with social media engagement, Wood highlighted how the Chamber has reinvented its website to include information about policy updates, business resources, job employment and more.
Visit the website here.