Bobby Clue, executive director, Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce, during his annual "Year In Review Address" Tuesday said 2020 has been a year unlike any other. Clue's remarks were made to a pandemic-restricted audience at The Center for Rural Development, broadcast on a local radio station and live on the chamber's Facebook page.

"COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted our business community, and we are all working hard to recover.

The chamber has fielded thousands of calls and emails from our business community asking for help," Clue revealed.

"Our organization has continued to evolve and grow with the generous support of our communities, sponsors, members and volunteers," he said.

Clue continued: "Leadership of the business community has never been more important than in times of crisis. "Businesses are on the frontlines and have an essential role to play in maintaining the confidence needed to help contain the coronavirus while ensuring continuity of operations and a degree of normalcy to American lives.

"With a global health pandemic, an economic plummet and record-breaking unemployment numbers, the world seemed to turn upside down. However, these events spurred the chamber to use an innovative, outside-the-box approach to re-think its vision and provide more value than ever for our local business community.

"From serving as the leading voice of business in Southeast Kentucky, the chamber continues to play a role in the city's, county's and region's prosperous future." Clue assured.

This Year-End-Review highlights the most noteworthy accomplishments from the past 12-months:

• As the region adjusts to tackle coronavirus (COVID-19), the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce is committed to providing resources and information necessary to address needs of the business community during this unprecedented time. In uncertain times like these, the chamber is working to minimize impacts to health, communities and our economy.

• When the decision was made to shut down businesses, the chamber's first response was to reach out to members directly. The chamber staff called more than 500 retail member businesses to assess their situation and offer assistance and support.

Due to these efforts, the chamber finished the year with a 92 percent revenue retention rate. During the pandemic, the chamber was able to assist in directing people on how to apply for unemployment, file for the Paycheck Protection Program and identify job opportunities for people who have recently lost their jobs due to COVID-19.

• The chamber took a leadership role in educating members on how COVID-19 is impacting business, and in explaining and sharing resources as they were becoming available. Social media was used to expand the reach.

• A 3-part email series titled "The Road to Recovery" outlined ways for businesses to reopen, recover and revitalize. This series has gained statewide attention and helped provide vital tools to the business community in the return to a state of normalcy.

• Using Zoom video conferencing technology, the chamber has been able to provide "virtual training" classes for membership. Zoom has also allowed interviews with several top notch speakers unable to attend our monthly luncheons.

Facebook LIVE has also been a tool the chamber has utilized to promote members and host events. To date, the chamber has hosted 14 "virtual ribbon cuttings" allowing the chamber to push forward and provide the business community with much needed visibility. Each "virtual ribbon cutting" has received thousands of views and has been identified as something the chamber will continue because of value it provides.

The chamber also used Facebook LIVE to host the annual "State of the County & City Address" with County Judge Steve Kelley and Mayor Alan Keck. With assistance of The Center for Rural Development, the chamber was able to host this event virtually. To date, more than 8,000 have viewed the Facebook video.

• "Shop Local Somerset" has become a very important focus in recent months. The importance of shopping local has never been more important and through this program the chamber was able to encourage the community to keep dollars local and help our retail business community during a very difficult time.

• Restaurants were some of the hardest hit businesses. Within the first week the chamber worked to compile a list of restaurants offering takeout and delivery services to encourage the community to support these restaurants. The chamber also encouraged purchase of gift cards to show support.

• The chamber organized a program called "Takeout Tuesday" and local businesses were asked to support local restaurants with group takeout orders each Tuesday to help keep these restaurants open.

• The chamber identified a need for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) throughout the business community and worked with Pulaski County government and Judge Steve Kelley to secure and distribute 15,000 disposable masks to local businesses. The chamber also purchased several thousands of dollars' worth of hand sanitizer, latex gloves, hand soap and alcohol wipes distributed to the business community at no charge.

"COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on so many businesses, families, individuals and our community. This is why businesses support an organization like the Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce. While we are in times of crisis or times of prosperity, the chamber is working hard to assist your business," Clue concluded.

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