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Business groups refocus to meet new needs

By John Seelmeyer

Business associations are pivoting quickly to help their members weather the COVID-19 storm and position themselves to take advantage of the return of better times.

Not that many weeks ago, organizations such as The Reno + Sparks Chamber of Commerce were focused on helping business attract top-quality employees and handle the demands of a white-hot local economy.

Today, businesses are more likely to turn to their professional organizations to help tap emergency federal assistance for small businesses or to get tips on management of remote workforces.

NCET, which bills itself as Northern Nevada’s largest educational and networking organization, has been running a series of well-attended free weekly webinars to help companies make the transition to virtual organizations.

Topics have ranged from tips for use of Zoom to ways of managing conflict in a virtual workforce, says Dave Archer, president and CEO of NCET. (Archived seminars and a schedule of upcoming events are at  https://ncet.org/biz-cafe-online/.)

Ann Silver, CEO of the chamber of commerce, says three staff members have continued to work each day in the organization’s offices, fielding hundreds of calls and e-mails.

The chamber has hosted members-only conference calls with U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, Congressman Mark Amodei, the Nevada office of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Nevada Labor Commissioner. Members also receive a daily email that promotes businesses that remain legally open.

The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, whose mission always has included support of existing business along with recruitment of new employers, has stepped forward in recent weeks as a clearinghouse, pointing its members toward seminars on new regulations and federal assistance programs.

Owners planning ahead

Despite the worries that businesspeople have about the survival of their businesses, Archer says NCET members also are preparing for the end of stay-at-home orders and mandated business closures.

“When they’re busy, business owners often find it hard to work on their business,” the NCET president says. “If your business has slowed, this is the perfect time to step back and take a hard look at your business. What’s working well?  What’s not working?”

He says savvy business organizations are developing marketing plans and deciding on staffing questions today so they can move quickly when the economy reopens.

At the same time, they’re aware that business is likely to return slowly and consumers will be cautious.  That means that managers are thinking about the products and procedures they’ll need to have in place so customers feel safe.

“Plan now and you’ll be ready for our public health and economic recovery,” Archer says.

Silver, meanwhile, notes the chamber is offering special $199 annual memberships to any business, large or small.

While members receive benefits and participate in special events and classes, Silver says membership is even more important during a crisis.

“It demonstrates good business citizenship,” she says. “We want to kill the virus, not the economy.”

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