Catoosa Chamber of Commerce CEO Amy Jackson, Kona Ice

Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce CEO Amy Jackson buys flavored ice from Chamber member Kona Ice of Walker & Catoosa.

The Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce exists to promote business, with a special focus on local, small businesses. What does a Chamber do when a large portion of its members are forced to close their businesses due to a pandemic?

“Even though our offices have been closed to the public,” says Catoosa Chamber CEO Amy Jackson, “the Chamber staff has been working tirelessly to support local businesses in an ever-changing environment.”

Jackson says that, among other things, the Catoosa Chamber has been networking with other Chambers to share ideas and provide up-to-date information on government programs and executive orders.

One especially useful project has been the creation of the website Catoosa.info, which was created in partnership with Keith Barclift of the Catoosa County Economic Development Authority.

Catoosa.info, says Jackson, “provides information for businesses about PPP (Paycheck Protection Program), EIDL (Economic Injury Disaster Loans), PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance), and Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s executive orders, as well as restaurant and business information guides for citizens.”

The first step the Chamber took when businesses were forced to close was to call all 400 of its members to see how they were doing. From there, says Jackson, it was a matter of adjusting to changing scenarios, including tornadoes that swept through the area in mid-April.

Businesses are now reopening and the Chamber is focusing on promoting them and helping them thrive.

Jackson says the Chamber has retooled its weekly email and social media “Chamber Business Blast” by featuring more businesses and waiving the usual advertising fee.

The Chamber has also been filming local business owners sharing their reopening stories, what they offer and how they’re working to keep the public and their employees safe as concerns about COVID-19 continue.

Elected officials are also a part of this social media campaign.

Here’s some more of how the Chamber has been helping businesses and the community throughout the past few months.

♦ The Chamber has been promoting all Catoosa County businesses, not just Chamber members, on social media with their #shoplocal social media campaign and welcoming all business as they reopen.

♦ The Chamber has been representing Catoosa County small businesses on weekly COVID-19 calls with Catoosa County Emergency Management and Catoosa County government.

♦ The Chamber has been representing Catoosa County in regular Zoom calls with the Georgia and U.S. Chamber of Commerce that discuss the latest programs available to help small businesses with payroll and operating expense relief.

♦ Chamber staff cut out fabric masks and volunteers sewed them; the Chamber has given away 300 masks and 200 more are almost ready to go.

♦ Due to COVID-19, the Chamber couldn’t host a public candidate debate as was planned. Instead, Chamber CEO Amy Jackson conducted 17 candidate interviews that were recorded and played on UCTV and are available on the Chamber website https://www.catoosachamberofcommerce.com/. The project was sponsored by Chamber member MedSTAT Supplies.

♦ The Chamber arranged to facilitate the Catoosa Mobile Food Pantry at The Colonnade on May 29th from 10am to 12 noon.

♦ Jackson spent three days helping with tornado cleanup in Fort Oglethorpe and East Brainerd while Chamber staff members cut material for masks.

♦ The Chamber helped with YMCA Food for Families distributions.

♦ The Chamber has networked with area churches regarding services needed for specific individuals who might not be covered by existing programs.

♦ The Chamber transitioned its weekly members networking and relationship-building meetings to Zoom video conferencing.

♦ The Chamber hosted a public Zoom call with the Rome Small Business Development Center so anyone who wished could speak to the director.

♦ The Chamber worked with member Reagan Outdoor Advertising, which provided free billboard space to congratulate individual Catoosa County and North Georgia graduates who submitted their name, school name and picture.

“We work to be member- and community-driven,” says Jackson. “We care about Catoosa County businesses and want them to prosper. We look forward to the continued reopening of our businesses and want to be there to promote and support them.”

For more information about the Catoosa County Chamber of Commerce, visit their website at https://www.catoosachamberofcommerce.com/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/catoosacochamber/. Visit https://www.catoosa.info/ for information about COVID-19 resources for businesses and the community.

Tamara Wolk is a reporter for The Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga., and Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga.

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