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by Kelly Hall and Suzanne S. Brown, Longview Chamber of Commerce
Hard work and strategic planning poised
our Chamber for the year that was, 2020.

Still basking in the euphoria of being awarded Chamber of the Year, we asked ourselves, “now what?”  As we eagerly tackled that question and looked forward into our future, the pandemic struck and our economy came very close to a complete shut down.  Because of the years of adhering to a laser-focused mission and strategic planning, the Chamber was able to quickly respond and take action!  Engaging experts – Small Business Administration, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Texas Workforce Commission, Workforce Solutions East Texas, SHRM, Henry & Peters, D&H Risk Services, elected officials, and state and federal agencies – the Chamber produced webinars to get information out to our members, the immediate business community, and on a regional basis to educate our businesses and keep our economy moving.

As a result, 1822 Payment Protection Program loans were awarded to 271 businesses in Longview for a total of $188,476,107, and the average loan amount of $103,444.  Employers learned directly from employment lawyers how to traverse the new FFRCA laws, and eventually return to work safely.  Working remotely, the Chamber staff ensured the continued work aligned with our vision and to drive the Longview trade area’s business future, while ensuring the safety of our employees.

And in the midst of this, the Chamber was instrumental in supporting the 2020 census count in providing resources and information to the business community.  This was important because data from the decennial count helps to allocate $800 billion annually in federal funding, including transportation, housing, education and workforce development services that contribute to a thriving economy.  The census also determines political representation at all levels of government, including how many U.S. Representatives each state receives.  Texas is poised to have an increase in U.S. Representatives.  To help businesses communicate to their employees, customers, and the general public the importance of their response to the census, our partnership with ReadyNation has provided these resources.

Although as of this writing we are not “back to normal,” through following industry experts we anticipate not returning to the exact economy and environment weformally experienced.  

Digital and online utilization has been pushed forward by a 10-year leap.  Companies quickly changed to online presence to survive, and some had creative ways to capture audience attention.  The Chamber pushed forward with virtual webinars in place of luncheon meetings, and jumped feet-first into online streaming for Business Before and After Hours events.  We stubbed our toes and learned a lot, but discovered a powerful marketing tool for our customers that expanded their marketing reach through creating online shows produced by Tye Jackson Pictures.  We have had strong partners help guide through opening a new web site relocation tool for companies to attract and retain talent to Longview.  Our member, Global Graphics, initiated the Strongview t-shirt campaign and, partnering with SignPro, our REACH volunteers delivered signs announcing businesses “We’re Open for Business!”  Inspired by a photographer in DFW, we captured images of companies adjusting to the new challenges and finding ways to keep their businesses open and moving, and saving their employees’ jobs, providing inspiration for us all.

The Longview Chamber of Commerce has been a critical driver in Longview for over a century!  Understanding history allows us to learn from the mistakes of the past and to build on our success.  We honor the hard work, broken dreams, and ultimate resiliency that brings us to the thriving, forward moving city that we are!  As the Longview Chamber of Commerce, we are proud to have been part of this process.  The core of our being has always been to fight on behalf of business, committed to helping businesses large and small succeed.  Combining our local voice, 1,100 strong and representing over 45,000 hard-working East Texans, with other chambers across the state and nation, leads to successful and impactful representation.  As Longview has metamorphosized throughout its being, so has the Chamber, in order to tackle the difficult changes and celebrate prosperous times, and has transformed into the leading organization dedicated to Leading People and Leading Prosperity.

There is no doubt, the year 2020 was a time of true testing.  The challenges we faced were not unlike others our nation has confronted in the past.  In 1918, a deadly pandemic.  In the 1930s, a crippling depression and massive unemployment.  In the 1960s, widespread civil unrest.  What was different about the 2020 moment is that all three happened all at once.  This extraordinarily complex set of challenges we faced required each of us to step up with renewed purpose and vigor.

Leading People.
Leading Prosperity.

It’s not just a tag line: It is a
reality as evidenced by the Chamber’s
lead role in four critical areas during 2020.

Leadership in the Pandemic. 

The first area is continued leadership through the pandemic.  While the economy slowly rebounded there were still many challenges ahead.   Businesses applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and/or the Main Street Lending Program. 

Our team pressed in to stay abreast of the biggest and fastest federal relief package in U.S. history, and disseminated information to our members.  We mobilized our networks and resources to help small businesses survive!   We continue to help our members navigate this environment, champion and support the businesses that are leading the recovery, and push our lawmakers to respond swiftly and smartly.  And we’re going to keep it up until we get through to the other side—and we will.

Leadership in Politics.

The second area is leadership in politics.  Unfortunately, our country remains a nation politically divided. Initially the pandemic transcended politics—just long enough to deliver badly-needed aid with a real sense of urgency.  That moment passed.  The partisan battle lines were drawn over the next aid package.  Our role is to advocate for what is best for YOU, our investors, and our community.  We push our elected officials to look beyond partisan lines and do the right thing!

Leadership in the Economic Recovery.

The third area is to help lead the economic recovery.  In a survey compiled by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, investors were asked how long the recovery would take.  Most respondents said either 12–18 months or 18–24 months.  This input tracks with what our business community shared with us as well.

In responding to the recovery, we need to remain mindful of the impact of the financial crisis of 2008.  Our region’s economic challenges took its greatest hit a few years later.  We did rebound and our recovery remained bullish until COVID-19.  What we must remember, in times of crisis, is that there will be an urge to legislate and regulate in the aftermath of the pandemic—there always is after a crisis.  Some of the target areas might be supply chains, employment policies, insurance regulations, and health care regulations.  The Chamber worked with lawmakers to encourage not to overreach, overregulate, and do more harm.  They must make smart choices that enable businesses to hire people and drive growth and opportunity.  We prioritized the policies that will help those who have been displaced or disproportionately hurt by the pandemic.  Many of these people were already at risk because of workforce or technology disruptions underway before the pandemic.

Leadership in East Texas.

Finally, we must lead!  Shutdowns in commerce continue to contribute to a regional contraction that makes our economy fragile.  While we experienced a rocky economy in the past, it has been some time since our region has faced state, national, and international challenges combined.   We continued to press in and take the Long VIEW!  How we choose to work together and do the right things for the right reasons define who we are for years to come.

We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a proud history of stepping up when our businesses need us most.  The Chamber exists to lead in moments like this.  We give the business community a unified voice.  We rise above politics and lead with principles.

We’re OPEN Strongview!

Upon the Governor’s scheduled re-opening of Texas businesses in late April and May,  the Chamber partnered with SignPro to create and distribute “We’re Open” signs to area businesses to help stir the business community and consumers with information that we could open and operate businesses in a safe manner to protect people.  A series of photographs were taken to showcase how our businesses were adjusting to the new constraints and keeping people safe, which then translated into an ad campaign.  Global Graphics designed t-shirts and yard signs for “StrongView,” an initiative to visually reinforce the strength of our trade area and its people.  

Steps to Recovery: Returning to Work Over the summer months, the Chamber began participating in the U.S. Chamber’s program called Path Forward, a series designed to help America think through preparing to restart the economy and get millions of people back to work. This remobilization of American business took place in deep-dive conversations between U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark and a cross-section of experts. Soliciting input from our members, it became increasingly certain that returning to work would be gradual, phased-in, and vary by factors such as location, sector, business type or size, and the health status of workers. It would also require continued social distancing, expanded use of personal protective equipment, and other counter-measures. Our business community created new processes, requirements, and restrictions for which there was no playbook or precedent. And we could not allow a lack of resources, regulations that are not fit-for-purpose, and the fear of litigation to sideline efforts to return to work and life—safely, successfully, and sustainably.

To help business and government anticipate the challenges we may face, Longview Chamber, in partnership with Chambers from across the country led by U.S. Chamber of Commerce began exploring and cataloguing some of the major implications of returning to work in this environment, ranging from workplace safety and employee rights to liability concerns and continued revenue disruptions

The Longview Chamber champions the private sector innovation that solves problems and improves lives. We demonstrate the collective power of business to create opportunity, lift our region, and spread hope. Your Chamber exists not only to serve our members, but also to serve our community, region, state and country—and that charge has never been more important than it is today.

Moving Forward! Talent attraction and retention continued to be at the top of most conversations when our team asked investors, “What keeps you up at night?” Companies were looking for cutting edge, first class tools to use when selling Longview. That is why we are launching our LongviewNOW! tool kit. There are three pieces in the LongviewNOW! toolkit: website, video, and magazine.

The LongviewNOW! toolkit
is focused on explaining:

We love living in Longview;
How we can get connected; and
What it is like living in Longview.

This initiative began after an InterCity trip to Waco when it was determined that it was time to build a site focused on our quality of life to attract and retain talent. A collaboration took place to create this new toolkit for employers. M. Robert’s Digital created the new web site and compilation calendar; Forbes & Butler created the logo to convey the energy and freshness we wished to convey; Conterra Networks provided funding and inspiration; and Tye Jackson Pictures created the new video featuring our great outdoors and quality of life.

To compliment the website and video, a new interactive digital magazine was created to become the virtual front door of the Chamber to attract talent to the Longview area. LongviewNow! was designed by Encore Multimedia and produces a professional feature piece that is available on the NEW official relocation website, LongviewNOW! as well as the Chamber website. The magazine/guide is two editions published annually and marketed utilizing targeted Google Ads, Facebook ads, and programmatic advertising. A terrific feature is the landing page of LongviewNOW! Visitors to the site enter their information and instantly download the magazine, or have it emailed to them. Talent attraction and retention is important to our companies
and that is why we created these tools to help our businesses
be successful.

We will continue to face incredibly challenging times. As our business community creates a new footing, the Chamber Team is working harder than ever. We are completely focused on helping our investors continue to provide goods and services as we discover and transition to the new normal.

Now, more than ever, facts matter. Do not let uncertainty create fear. Balance the constant flow of information by taking time for meaningful, personal interactions, and taking time to care for yourself. Make a difference in the lives around you. We cannot
allow fear to consume our emotions as it will affect our decision-making and drive even more uncertainty.

The bottom line is that the adherence to disciplined strategic planning, and the consideration of “what if?”, poised the Chamber to help the business community.That is why we exist; that is why we work hard every day to be the best chamber we can be and look for ways to improve in service to our investors, and to increase opportunities for our area.

It is not easy, but if it were easy it would not be worth doing. That’s the mantra at your Chamber. We care about your business.

We care about Longview. We care about you.

Leading People. Leading Prosperity.

Why we love living in Longview?
How you can get connected?
What is it like living in Longview?

A new cutting edge, first-class Recruiting Talent Toolkit to sell Longview and help companies be successful in recruiting and retaining employees!

| E-Magazine |

| Video |

| Website |