Helping local businesses adjust to the impacts of the COVID crisis was the main topic of conversation during last week's Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce's board of directors meeting. The meeting was held via video conference due to the virus.

Supporting local small businesses was highlighted in the discussion as many business had closed or adopted reduced hours in the last week.

"Small businesses need people to buy local right now," said board member Chad Bingham. "Small businesses are really in trouble."

The chamber is watching various legislative actions that could provide some relief to businesses impacted by the economic downturn that has come out of the virus crisis.

An online survey has also been launched for chamber members to record how the virus is affecting their businesses. The organization plans to use its social media platforms to share information with members during the crisis.

The chamber also hosted a conference call last week of around 30 large business and industry leaders across Jackson County to discuss the impact the virus was having on their operations and to share information, said chamber director of economic development John Scott.

"It's unchartered territory for everybody," he said.

Scott said the calls would probably be held weekly during the crisis.

BUSINESS INTEREST

Despite concerns about the virus, Scott reported that the county was following two large industrial projects.

One is a chicken rendering plant that would make dog food, he said. The unnamed company had hired a PR firm to help with that effort, anticipating some local push-back.

Details about the second project were not released.

CANDIDATE FORUM AND EVENTS

The board also heard a report about if and how the chamber could host a candidate forum for the upcoming May elections. Given the restrictions on large gatherings, the board discussed hosting an online forum with the candidates instead.

In other news, the chamber has canceled some of its upcoming events, such as the April business breakfast and Jackson County Day at the Capitol, but no decision has been made yet on whether or not to reschedule the Jackson County Derby scheduled for April 23.

The cancellations of events could have an impact on the chamber's own finances, said Jim Shaw, president and CEO of the chamber. Shaw said the chamber is in good financial shape for now, but he was starting to watch the cash flow as the economy hits many of its members.

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