It’s been quite an unusual year to say the least in the world of business with months filled with uncertainties that have been especially challenging for small, local businesses.

As we look back on the past year as at the community living through a pandemic, the Calhoun Times asked some questions of Gordon County Chamber of Commerce President Kathy Johnson.

Q: After a year of dealing with COVID-19, what have been the biggest hurdles/challenges for the chamber during this time?

A: Early on we began to adjust to radically different ways of conducting business and adjusting our daily lives. We quickly learned the importance of reliable technology. The Chamber was challenged to keep up with increased demand and rate of changing technology. We worked to establish transitional remote workspace for our employees and ways to keep the flow of information moving from the levels of digital mediums. We also learned of the growing need to build and grow digital infrastructure for remote education learning and working from the rural parts of our community. The Chamber will be placing added focus on rural broadband development in our 2021 plan of work. We also took on the role of brokering information to the membership on COVID, regulations, restrictions, and resources.

Q: What have you learned about yourself, the chamber staff and members during the challenges of the last year?

A: I have learned how resilient and resourceful the members of our community can be in the face of adversity. I am proud of our members, businesses, and Georgians as we have confronted immense challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We faced ways to handle the enduring public health crisis unlike we have experienced in decades. I have been reminded of the true grit, passion and generosity of the citizens and leaders of our Calhoun/Gordon County business community.

Q: What are some positives you’ve seen come out of the past year’s adversity, both with the chamber and with businesses in the community?

A: I have to say I was most proud of our community and businesses in the way they joined many Georgian business and institutions when they heeded the Governor’s call to manufacture, distribute and store personal protective equipment for use in the pandemic endeavors. The collaboration could not have been stronger than in the Northwest Georgia region. Several of our business members and manufactures rallied and became tremendous success stories that resulted in a show of strength and corporate compassion.

Johnson cited one local example in a quote from Echota Fabrics’ Will Ostuw from the Chamber’s forthcoming annual report due to be released with the new logo in the second quarter of this year: “When we heard reports that frontline healthcare workers were sacrificing everything to treat the sick without appropriate protective equipment, we felt compelled to act. The employees at Echota Fabrics looked around at the equipment that would normally manufacture drapery and bedspreads and set about on a mission to assist those risking their lives for others. Instead of retreating to the safety of their homes, which was their right, they fired up their sewing machines and produced isolation gowns and masks. It was a sad and scary time, but I will never forget the smiles on our faces and the joy that we collectively felt as we temporarily learned a new trade and loaded each box for the healthcare workers.”

Q: How does the Chamber move forward into the “new normal” and how has it adapted to help Gordon County continue to rebound?

A: Our Chamber took the year 2020 to retool and rebrand. After an extensive process, the Chamber Board of Directors are proud to present a new logo and fresh color pallet. The reveal will be sent to the membership in a digital message in the second quarter of 2021.

Also, in 2020, the Convention and Visitor Bureau launched a new logo and branding initiative. New mapping projects were completed. New city and county maps were generated, and 10,0000 copies were printed and are available in the Chamber/CVB lobby. In addition, the CVB created a pad map of the city, county, and interstate travel ways for the hospitality frontline operators. Look for the City of Calhoun’s downtown digital version coming in 2021. It will be available for view and download from the CVB website — www.exploregordoncounty.com.

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add that our readers should know that we haven’t covered?

A: In a year when we were advised to limit personal interactions with others outside their own household, and postpone traditional gatherings such as holidays and vacations, we took it as a challenge to find creative ways to encourage people to engage in safe outdoor activities while promoting the many amenities of Calhoun/Gordon County. Our CVB launched an “Explore Gordon Outdoors – Enjoy the Good Life” with a billboard and magazine campaign featuring that encouraged safe & socially distant outdoor activity, family interaction, exercise & entertainment.

In 2020 Calhoun/Gordon County was spotlighted in a television feature, entitled “Road Trippin,” to market our communities fall tourism activities in the Chattanooga market. All of the segments were coordinated by CVB Director, Sarah Ostuw. There were multiple featured segments resulting in a 30-minute TV feature.

We want to remind everyone and the business community of Calhoun and Gordon County to continue masking up, keep your distance, and adhere to safety protocols as you operate your places of business.

For the latest information on how to ensure a safe and productive work environment amid COVID-19, please visit the Georgia Chamber www.UnifiedStandards.com.

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