BY PETE BARDUNIAS
When the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County (CSSC) affiliated with the Capital Region Chamber amid much fanfare at the beginning of 2020, the coronavirus was a mere footnote on a few overseas news reports.
Yet just weeks after our expanded team working in Clifton Park began settling in together, the health crisis hit, changing perhaps forever the dynamic of how people in our industry support the local and regional business community.
One thing is for certain: the integration of the chambers couldn’t have possibly come at a more meaningful time. The Capital Region Chamber provided strength and stability, offering CSSC members and the southern Saratoga County business community a lot of services that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
Because of the large, combined staff, members were able to receive direct personal support via one-on-one consultation, along with getting assistance in locating PPE and advice in the PPP and EIDL loan processes. Some 775 individuals participated in 25 free webinars we hosted on topics specifically related to helping businesses and their employees through the pandemic.
Additionally, our Chamber is administering the new $8 million loan fund to assist affected businesses. Like all nonprofits, the Capital Region Chamber and its affiliates were impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic, but has the resources to ride the storm far better than the pre-affiliation CSSC ever could hope to achieve, which is very positive for area businesses.
It gives me great pride to be able to state with certainty that there are businesses still operating in Saratoga County today because of the work we did specifically to assist them this past year.
In 2021, your regional and local Chamber has an aggressive legislative agenda to support and advocate for businesses, covering many topics with a special concentration on recovery and equity. It is vital that we face these challenges united with one voice, one mission for one region. Recovering from the public health and economic crisis will take a lot of effort at all levels.
While the federal stimulus has helped many, the stability of many for-profit and not-for-profit businesses and local governments remains in peril. We will push hard for additional COVID-19 related financial assistance, permanent and broad based income tax reduction for business owners, infrastructure investment, a five-year moratorium on the Scaffold Law, policies and increased funding for childcare, workforce and training programs.
We’ll advocate for community based nonprofits, the hospitality and restaurant industry, performing arts and the local municipalities themselves, which all saw massive revenue challenges due to the COVID economy. Also, we will advocate for inclusive workforce development opportunities, improvements to MWBE certification, greater access to capital for minority owned businesses, equitable school funding and access to advanced courses, and equitable broadband access, plus much more as outlined in our 2021 Advocacy Agenda.
Our Chamber of Southern Saratoga County affiliate remains the official chamber of commerce of Clifton Park and Halfmoon, and this will also be the eighth straight year we have partnered with the Saratoga County Economic Development Committee of Supervisors to administer the Saratoga County Community Development Program.
The program persevered in 2020 local fixtures such as Historic Lock 19, the Vischer Ferry picnic area, the Mechanicville gazebo and dockside bulletin board, the Clifton Park Visitor Center at the Exit 9 rest area and others were maintained and serviced by dedicated volunteers.
The Southern Saratoga County Chamber Angels assisted 456 needy children at the holiday season, and local Malta Business Community Alliance committee volunteers designed and built the MaltaNYBusiness.com website to display information about living, playing and working in that wonderful community.
We have strong leadership in our volunteer boards led by Key Bank’s Ruth Mahoney as chair of the Capital Region Chamber, and Chris Dowd of Ballston Spa National Bank will continue as chair of the Chamber of Southern Saratoga County. Our president and CEO, Mark Eagan, has demonstrated his skill and commitment to the Capital Region over the past twelve years.
New for 2021 is the affiliation of the Center for Economic Growth (CEG) with the regional Chamber. It means we also have the talents of Katie Newcombe and her staff for a regional economic development approach from top to bottom. This unprecedented alignment of complementary organizations means very good things for business in Saratoga County and beyond.
I personally have never been associated with a team as capable and professional as the one fielded by your regional Chamber, and encourage people to visit www.capitalregionchamber.com for more information. Our staff, board members and many volunteers stepped forward to help throughout the year. My heart grieves for all who were stricken by or lost loved ones to this insidious disease, yet I am cautiously optimistic that this year will see a vast improvement in personal safety and economic security in Saratoga County and throughout the region.By Darryl Leggieri
BY PETE BARDUNIAS