Post written by President & CEO of the Loudoun Chamber Tony Howard, CCE, IOM
It is a time-honored tradition, to look back on the year past and reflect on our triumphs and tribulations.
After the year 2020, the tribulations will be far easier to count.
There is no sugarcoating it: the past year was filled with historic medical, economic and social crises, any one of which would have marked 2020 as anyone’s least favorite.
But let’s not forget the abundance of human triumphs that did occur in our own Loudoun community. Surely you witnessed, as I did, the courage and tenacity of our health care workers who battled a deadly virus, every day, from the front lines.
Nor did you miss the tireless efforts of local businesses, citizens and governments to provide economic lifelines to struggling workers and businesses impacted by the pandemic’s fallout.
Certainly, we all saw the heroic efforts of Loudoun’s nonprofit and faith-based communities, who met an historic calamity with an equally historic effort to feed, clothe, shelter and care for our neighbors in need.
There were far too many examples of Loudouners rallying to respond to the COVID-19 crisis than any one person could observe. Yet, each one was an extraordinary inspiration.
That inspiration provided the energy the Loudoun Chamber Board of Directors and staff needed to redirect efforts, starting back in March, to focus everything we did for the remainder of 2020 on helping our community survive and heal. Here are a few of the triumphs from 2020 I will recall most fondly:
Trusted business recovery and health information
From the pandemic’s earliest stages, the Loudoun Chamber has been focused on providing Loudoun’s businesses instant access to vital information – from economic stimulus programs, access and usage of PPE, to government-ordered restrictions – they need to survive.
Advocating for our business community
The Chamber lobbied hard for federal, state and local relief from this crisis. Our efforts paid off in Loudoun’s Business Interruption Fund, and the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. We also secured temporary relief from Loudoun’s signage, parking and outdoor seating limits.
Free, virtual networking and educational events
In mid-March, with little warning, all live events were shut down by the Governor’s “stay at home” order. Overnight, the Chamber team moved all meetings and events online and made that content entirely free and available to all, regardless of Chamber membership.
Loudoun: Open For Business Tool Kit
Getting Loudoun’s businesses back to business, safely and legally, has been the Chamber’s top priority throughout the Spring. We unveiled our “Loudoun: Open For Business” tool kit on May 5th. This robust set of resources was created to help every business keep their workplace, employees, and customers safe, as they reopened as restrictions were lifted. The Chamber even crafted its own reopening strategy to welcome staff, members, and visitors back, using this tool kit.
Loudoun Is Ready
The next step in our Open For Business initiative was the “Loudoun Is Ready” campaign, a partnership with Loudoun Economic Development and Visit Loudoun to boost consumer confidence to return to local restaurants, shops, wineries, breweries, and other destinations.
The key to the campaign is the “Loudoun Is Ready” pledge, a promise made by more than 1,000 local businesses to make the health and safety of customers and employees their top priority by implementing proven safety practices.
Feed Loudoun’s Healthcare Workers
Just weeks into the crisis, the Chamber launched “Feed Loudoun’s Healthcare Workers,” raising more than $21,000 to feed the doctors, nurses, and other employees at Inova Loudoun Hospital and StoneSprings Hospital Center. We purchased these meals from 13 Chamber member restaurants, providing them much-needed revenue.
While most Chamber activities were converted to virtual platforms, we did have a few fun and poignant moments during limited in-person events.
On October 2nd, the Chamber honored 92 heroic first responders and 17 courageous civilians in a hybrid in-person/Facebook Live broadcast 35th Annual Valor Awards.
In mid-August, the Annual Chamber Classic drew 120 golfers to the landmark Club at Creighton Farms, where the club staff deployed the latest safety measures to ensure a fun and secure outing.
Let’s not forget about the 26th Annual Loudoun Small Business Awards. Our plans for a hybrid limited in-person/Facebook broadcast event were ruined less than three weeks from the event, when our venue was forced to close.
Scrambling quickly, Chamber volunteers, vendors and staff moved the entire event to an online broadcast, with a mix of pre-recorded and live elements, to honor 24 outstanding small businesses and four equally outstanding entrepreneurs.
The outstanding small businesses and entrepreneurs we honored at this year’s Small Business Awards may come from different industries and serve different customers, they have one important thing in common.
They prove that the tenacity, self-confidence and focus it takes to succeed in business are the same attributes our community needs to make it through this crisis. They prove also that with these attributes, Loudoun County will remain, for many years to come, #StrongerTogether.
Tony Howard is President & CEO of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce. For more information, call 703-777-2176