The role played by Te Awamutu’s Chamber of Commerce through the challenges of 2020 has helped swell its ranks and set it up well for a more inclusive 2021.
Membership is around 109, up some four or five on pre-Covid-19 numbers. Board chair Chantelle Good said while a few were lost during the past year – not all of them due to the pandemic, she noted – others have joined, finding the help they got from the Chamber through uncertain times to be a benefit worth continuing.
The coming year will be one of consolidating those gains, she suggested, reaching into the wider business community and looking for a new CEO for the Chamber.
“I’ve been acting since our previous CEO Kris Anderson left during lockdown, and although it’s been workable while I run my own business, we are on the lookout for someone to take on the role. We’d like to have someone in place by February.”
The organisation’s leadership helped ease businesses through the worst of a bad year. Chantelle said contact was maintained with members, and online meetings with a strong focus on human resources became sounding boards for those navigating rapid changes.
A lot of Te Awamutu has ‘bounced back’ relatively well, she said. Hospitality, retail and building took a hit through lockdown, but a good number have come back and are doing significantly better than might have been expected a few months ago.
“It is still quiet in some areas, but overall, we’re more optimistic now,” Chantelle said.
A Chamber now focusing on Covid-19 recovery is intent on broadening its scope, and hopes to attract more tradespeople to its ranks, those in light industry and agriculture. Perceptions persist, she said, that Chamber membership is primarily professional in its focus, but there is much to be gained on both sides if those in other industries come on board.
“The perception is that only business owners tend to join. Many tradies are business-owners, and even if they aren’t, they have a lot to offer others on the Chamber. When planning events for next year, we’re going to look at running a series focused more on benefits to tradies. There are also a number of legislative changes that are now in place that will impact them as much as anyone else, and they need to know about those.”
Chantelle said she hoped an incoming CEO would centre on relationship-building and engage more with existing and future members.
“There are more businesses working from home as a result of Covid-19. That makes a difference, and means we have to look at different ways of doing things.”