Fitchburg Chamber Business Expo

From right, Allie Schaietl explains her Hotel Red to Dianne Gintz during the Fitchburg Chamber Business Expo at the Wyndham Garden Hotel on April 11, 2019. On a normal basis, the Fitchburg Chamber promotes local businesses with expos and other events. During a pandemic however, it has had to adapt that approach.

Normally, the Fitchburg Chamber of Commerce hosts expos, networking parties and community events to promote local business multiple times a month.

But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the chamber has to evolve how it serves the area.

Executive director Angela Kinderman told the Star it’s taken on the amplified role of information dissemination – if a business owner has an inquiry, they can give the chamber a call any time or check out its website. Staff have also made their cell phone numbers available to businesses.

Chamber staff also reach out to check in with local business owners, Kinderman said — resulting in over 400 phone calls being made over the last few months, but most going to voicemail.

In turn, Kinderman and her staff have worked to inform the Fitchburg community about which businesses have deals, which restaurants have carryout and delivery options which industries are still hiring in an uncertain job market – even looking into how recovery efforts might look as Wisconsin starts to open up again.

The Chamber has also prioritized communications that Fitchburg’s hospitality industry remains mostly intact, even though they’ve generally been hit hard. She said Country Inn & Suites, Hawthorn Suites, Staybridge Suites and Wyndham Garden remain open for business.

“There are still those necessary situations where customers need accommodations for business travel,” Kinderman said. “It’s important people know these hotels are open.”

She said the Chamber is also acting as a conduit to state and federal legislatures – if a business has a concern, staff have communicated that to government officials.

But Kinderman said businesses are some of the best innovators and adaptors, who will continue to evolve their models as the pandemic moves forward — a lot to a virtual platform.

She said the Chamber is already in talks with its board members about putting a recovery team together — “sooner rather than later,” Kinderman added.

The team will look at obstacles preventing businesses from opening their doors, and how it could bring more tourism into a city whose revenue relies on large events – how to make the public feel safe about that tourism.

Fitchburg is home to numerous events that pull in thousands of people, some of which have already been postponed or cancelled, such as Festa Italia and Kids Building Wisconsin.

More information and links to resources can be found via FACTv programming, on social media and on the Chamber website. Staff updates the links regularly, Kinderman said.

Links are categorized under three tabs, including “Employee & Employer Resources,” “Community Resources” and “Updates on Service Adjustments.”

The first tab includes financial resources for grants, loans and other forms of assistance. The second lists references for city, senior and food resources. The third details which restaurants, gyms and personal care businesses have either closed, changed their hours or adapted their service offerings.

If a business or member of the public has an inquiry, they can call 288-8284 or visit fitchburgchamber.com.

Email Emilie Heidemann at emilie.heidemann@wcinet.com or follow her on Twitter at @HeidemannEmilie.