The Thursday night annual meeting of the Grand Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce was a little different from normal.
Instead of the crowded Cross Creek Country Club dining hall, complete with a series of recognitions and speakers, this year’s event was considerably shorter, being streamed online via the chamber’s YouTube channel due to the pandemic of COVID-19.
The message of those who spoke was also very different. Again, because of the pandemic.
Each of the three speakers – chamber executive Randy Collins, outgoing board chairman James Etringer and new board chairman Chris Lumsden – spoke about how difficult 2020 is and how the chamber has been. forced to be flexible, to adapt to the business and social environment created by the pandemic.
Etringer perhaps best summed up the year 2020 when he referred to last year’s annual meeting, and his thoughts back when his remarks were from the perspective of a new board chairman. administration.
“Looking back on last year’s annual meeting… we had a very successful year. … Our membership was at an all time high, every event we hosted that year was a success. … My thoughts were… let’s keep the momentum going, keep the train on track, don’t ruin it.
“We didn’t know what was coming for 2020.”
COVID-19, which is already quietly spreading to different parts of the world, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization less than a month after the 2020 chamber meeting, and before the end of March, Caroline du North – along with much of the rest of the nation – was on lockdown with severe limits on activities outside the homes.
While many of those limits were relaxed somewhat throughout the year, the chamber ended up canceling most of its events scheduled for 2020, including the Fall Leaves Festival.
“This is a major event for our community, a major event for the chamber. … The cancellation of this festival was difficult. … It deeply touches our community, ”Etinger said. The festival is not only a major tourism and cultural gathering, he said it is often the biggest fundraising opportunity for many local charities who set up vendor stands there.
“We hope to host this event again in 2021… but time will tell,” he said.
The year was not entirely wasted, however. The outgoing president reminded spectators that the chamber was able to host a golf tournament, virtual job fair, chicken stew (sold over 400 liters) and an online auction. This was accompanied by regular Zoom meetings which gave chamber members the opportunity to meet and hear from local government leaders.
“2020 has been a particularly difficult year, a year that has produced unprecedented disruption for most businesses here in Surry County and around the world,” said new chairman of the board Chris Lumsden, who is President and CEO of Northern Regional Hospital. He expressed hope that with the proper precautions, widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine, “and some prayers answered, 2021 will be better for us.”
While many businesses struggle to survive, Lumsden encouraged the community to remain a member of the chamber and rely on it as a resource.
“The chamber is more relevant than ever to our businesses and our community,” he said. Lumsden said many people take the chamber for granted during good times, when outside support may not seem as important to a business’s success, but during lean times the chamber’s ability to help. to stimulate the business world becomes obvious.
“Our chamber is a great source of help during good times and bad,” he reminded those watching, adding that it makes sense for businesses in the region to support and work with the chamber, to somewhat selfish reasons if not for other purposes. “What’s good for our room is good for our community. And what’s good for our community is good for us and your business.
Lumsden said that during the pandemic, and going forward, the chamber has had to become more nimble, more creative, to adapt to the changing business climate. This means, and will continue to mean, constantly re-evaluating the activities it conducts, which events can be safely held and to seek innovative ways for sponsors, chamber members and event attendees to participate in events. room activities.
Randy Collins, president and CEO of the chamber, started the night’s meeting, with comments echoed by the other speakers, but he also had a word of optimism and encouragement for those watching.
“2020, as you know, has been a difficult year for all of us, but I know 2021 brings us hope for better times and prosperity for your business. “
He said that whatever the circumstances, the chamber will continue to work to find ways to fulfill its mission, which is to advance, promote and encourage “successful business growth for our members”.
After the three men spoke, the annual Citizen of the Year award went to local businessman and former Mount Airy Major David Rowe. A full account of this presentation is available in the Friday, February 13 edition of The Mount Airy News (Rowe named Citizen of Year) or online at https://www.mtairynews.com/news/94395/rowe-named-citizen-of-year.