WP Chamber of Commerce Outgoing Chairman’s Message

It would be an obvious understatement to say that 2020 was a strange year for the Greater West Plains Chamber of Commerce but I am going to say it anyway – 2020 was a strange year! The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on everyone. COVID-19 took lives, damaged businesses, and disrupted things such as access to healthcare, grocery shopping, and our children’s education in ways that many of us probably never thought were possible. Tensions have run high and created an environment that has been unpleasant at times. Despite those challenges, most of us have worked to adapt to the situation and move forward in positive ways. At the Chamber, we have tried to do our best in a less than perfect situation.
The Chairman’s year in review typically recaps all the accomplishments and activities of the Chamber over the past year. However, for the Chamber, this year was defined in many ways by the things we were unable to do because of COVID-19. For example, this message is typically delivered at our annual awards event. This year we made the decision to cancel the banquet because of continued limitations on the ability to gather in large groups. The monthly luncheons had to be cancelled from April for the rest of the year. Our golf tournament was cancelled, and we were unable to host any of our “After Hours” and Member Mixers. These cancellations were never made lightly, and we were always disappointed when the decision was made.
Despite those challenges, we did our best to adapt to the new environment and were still able to accomplish many things this year. Even though we were not able to have the same personal contact with members due to the pandemic, our Chamber staff pivoted to a stronger social media presence to find alternative ways to serve our members. Through social media, the Chamber kept its 2,500 followers informed with COVID-19 resources, emergency preparedness, information on its members, and community interest updates. Also, the Chamber created the COVID-19 West Plains Dining Guide that was shared through social media and helped support some of our members that were hardest hit by the pandemic. We also created an updated membership Directory, continued to publish our information-packed newsletter, and updated the website to include a variety of COVID-19 resources. The Chamber continued its partnerships with numerous local organizations to advocate, support, and provide resources to its members. This year the Chamber sold $27,000 in gift certificates, with $14,000 of that total during the holiday season alone. That is money that the Chamber has helped keep in our community working for all of us.
Although we were unable to meet in person, our monthly luncheons were replaced by Zoom meetings. Those meetings were hosted by Community Foundation of the Ozarks and allowed us to continue to give members the opportunity to receive updates from Ozarks Healthcare, Economic Development, the City, our education systems, and others. The Chamber welcomed 33 new members this year and hosted several ribbon cuttings. We were still able to organize the “New Teacher” welcome luncheon this year. Finally, we were able to end the year with the Annual Chamber Christmas Parade on December 12th. This was a well-attended, but socially distant event and a welcome reminder that we will all be able to gather again as a community one day soon.
Overall, I believe that everyone at the Chamber made the best of a bad situation this year. The best thing we can do moving forward for our community is to come together despite our many differences and support and respect one another. We really are all in this together! Thank you to the Chamber membership for providing me the opportunity to be your Chairman for the past year. And a special thanks to Jessica, Jennifer, the volunteers, and the Board for all their work and support this year. I am hoping that next year is a much better one.
Thank you for continuing to support your community.
Jeff Welch
2020 Chairman of the Board

Howell County News

110 W. Main St.,
Willow Springs, MO 65793

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