Normally, the Verona Area Chamber of Commerce hosts expos, networking parties and community events like Hometown Days to promote local business.
But during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Chamber had to evolve how it serves the area.
Executive director Le Jordan said the Chamber has taken on an amplified role of information dissemination. The Chamber is also working with the City of Verona on its Verona Business COVID-19 Support program, which are grants that struggling businesses can apply for.
“The recovery will not be isolated from community to community,” she said. “Everyone is going to have to come together and support each other.”
The Chamber is also using social media as an outreach tool, publishing updates on its Facebook page. It even puts on a “Verona Virtual Talent Show” there, where people were encouraged to submit one-minute videos with tidbits about Verona businesses, Jordan said.
“Every little bit helps,” she said.
Jordan said before the state shut down, Chamber staff bought gift cards from area businesses. From there, it turned into a photo contest – people could submit their best depictions of Hometown USA for the chance to win a gift card.
And last month, Jordan said the Chamber funded an effort to decorate Main Street with balloons to spread some joy.
“It cheered everyone up,” she said.
The Chamber is already looking ahead to recovery efforts during and after COVID-19.
A few weeks ago, she said it conducted a survey of its members, inquiring about how businesses were doing before COVID-19 and how they think they are going to fare afterwards.
Part of those recovery efforts are helping businesses build trust with customers, so that when they walk in the doors, they’ll know they’re going to stay healthy.
“How do you get those customers back?” Jordan asked rhetorically. “How do you help people feel safe?”
In the meantime, struggling businesses can look to the Chamber’s website for help.
It has both a COVID-19 Resource Center and a page about business adaptations and closures.
The resource center lists links for “Safer at Home” guidelines, best practices for business during this time, coronavirus relief bill, United Way of Dane County, the Wisconsin Restaurant Association, the City of Verona, Public Health of Madison and Dane County, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Verona Area School District updates, Small Business Administration loans with a “How To” guide and Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation grants.
The adaptations and closure page details which shops have deals, which industries are still hiring in an uncertain job market.
Many of the above resources are also listed in the Chamber’s weekly newsletter.
Jordan said chamber staff also sits through webinars with the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, the SBA and Gov. Tony Evers.
If a business owner has an inquiry, they can give the chamber a call at 845-8775 or check out its website at veronawi.com.