At the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce, we focus on being the catalyst for building relationships, driving collaboration, and championing opportunities in the Greater Spokane Valley. A majority of this focus involves face-to-face interactions in our business community. In mid-March, Governor Jay Inslee imposed a Stay Home Stay Healthy order due the COVID-19 pandemic, mandating most of our business community to close, work from home, or offer take-out/curbside service only. This order changed the way we did business. So how does a Chamber thrive without leaving the comfort of our own homes? We had to make the switch from face-to-face interactions to going completely virtual.
Our primary focus was how to give our members the resources they needed to keep their businesses up and running. We teamed up with two of our neighboring chambers, Greater Spokane Incorporated and West Plains Chamber of Commerce, and started doing weekly Joint Chamber Business Resource Calls. These resource calls were available for businesses to join and receive resources and updates regarding the COVID-19 pandemic with varying speakers. Attendees could also submit questions to the speakers, and in turn received answers during the calls or following them. Together, with the other chambers, we created a resource page to direct businesses looking for information regarding grants, loans, updates from the Governor, CDC, and many other agencies.
To utilize social media, we continued to post updates regarding the pandemic. We also created a “Hot Deals” Facebook page which allows members to post any deals, hour changes, events, or promotions they have going on at their business. We have about 150 people following the page and will continue to push our members to use this page as we move forward. In light of the situation, we felt the need to spread a little positivity, so we started to include “Some Positive News” stories on our social media and in our newsletter.
In place of our After 5 Networking events we launched Virtual Networking & Coffee events for our members. These events allowed our members to network virtually using a format where we could come together as a group then breakout into rooms of four. These randomly selected people would then introduce themselves to one another and network. “I really loved getting to interact with individuals I otherwise might have missed during an in-person event,” said Jesse Tennant, Director of Philanthropy for Girl Scouts of Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho. “This was one of the most helpful networking events I’ve been to.” In addition to allowing our members to meet people they wouldn’t normally meet in person, these events gave the Chamber the opportunity offer a new sponsorship opportunity for members to promote their businesses to all registrants during this time of uncertainty.
Another one of the main events we held was our Virtual Education Town Hall. Governor Inslee announced the closure of all public and private K-12 schools in the state of Washington through the end of the 2019-2020 school year along with the Stay Home Stay Healthy order. To inform the community on what our school districts were doing in Spokane Valley, we invited the four superintendents from the Spokane Valley school district to give an overview on what they were doing for the current and upcoming school year as well as answer questions. The four school districts; Central Valley, East Valley, Freeman, and West Valley, worked together to have a unified program. “We work together because we think we’re greater together,” Ben Small, Superintendent of Central Valley School District said. “We also think that there are certainly things each of us want to do differently and want to apply to our unique school districts.” The virtual town hall meeting via Zoom was attended by over 800 people in our community. This event prompted Kelly Shea, Superintendent of East Valley School District (EVSD), to hold another town hall meeting just for the EVSD on May 14th. The purpose of their town hall was to give families the chance to ask questions and get answers on what EVSD was doing and the impact COVID-19 had on the schools and the students’ education. They had over 200 people in attendance and around 70 questions answered. They plan on hosting additional meetings in the coming future.
As the Greater Spokane Valley Chamber moves forward, we have certainly improved our capacity to reach the community virtually and will continue to implement some of these virtual aspects as we continue serving the business community in the years to come.