The Providence Journal: Advocating for R.I.’s businesses in a time of crisis
By the R.I. Chamber of Commerce Coalition
Posted Jun 15, 2020 at 5:00 PM
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“What does the Chamber of Commerce do?” It’s a question we often hear. Although all chambers are not the same, they offer many of the same important things. They act as advocates for the small business community; sponsor and run business education meetings; host networking events and much more. Chambers are the voice of small businesses at the state and local levels. Chambers play a significant role in making our local economies work.
TO OUR READERS: This content is being provided for free as a public service during the coronavirus outbreak. Sign up for our daily or breaking newsletters to stay informed. Please support local journalism by subscribing to The Providence Journal. Chambers promote a variety of public events, including festivals, art shows and restaurant weeks, all of which promote local business and generate sales and taxes to support our economy. These businesses are owned by our residents, neighbors and family members. They provide services and products you use; feed you when you go out to eat; wash your car, do your taxes and many other things that make your life easier. Chambers work closely with local government to enhance the communication between business and government. We work with the Department of Labor and Training on workforce development. Rhode Island chambers have been the voice and backbone of small businesses for decades, and some for over 100 years. These chambers are partners in the Rhode
Island Chamber of Commerce Coalition and represent 7,500 business and 70,000 employees.
The COVID-19 crisis and the economic meltdown have caused members of the R.I. Chamber of Commerce Coalition to adjust and rise to the occasion. We are providing critical information and updates on the Payroll Protection Plan, disaster loans and personal protective equipment. We became a resource of pertinent information from Commerce Rhode Island, the U.S. SBA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, R.I. Department of Labor and Training, R.I. Department of Health and our local municipalities. We post on our websites the necessary resources and information for our member businesses, non-members and the general public. In place of scheduled meetings and public gatherings, we have adopted Zoom and virtual meetings to keep people connected. Our websites, electronic communication and social media inform the public about businesses that are still open and which ones are able to do business via the Internet, email or provide take out, curbside pickup and delivery. We are promoting the purchase of gift cards from our businesses while they are closed for everyday commerce.
A recent Providence Journal commentary stated it is “Time to Save R.I. Businesses.” We have always believed that a chamber’s role is to jump in to help support and save our businesses. It is gratifying to know so many people have recognized our efforts and the value of local small businesses. We are proud to be working with Commerce RI in distributing much-needed personal protection equipment to Rhode Island’s small businesses. Although this is a departure from much of our traditional work, it is work that we feel is necessary. As 501(c6) organizations, chambers have not been eligible for the Payroll Protection Plan. Still, we carry on, knowing that we have a significant role to play in supporting, preserving and growing small business and Main Street USA. So, the next time someone asks “What does the Chamber of Commerce do?” we hope you have an answer. We invite businesses that are not a member of their local chamber to reach out to one of us and find out how we can assist their business now and in the future. We are all #InItTogether.
The CEOs of the members of the R.I. Chamber of Commerce Coalition are Liz Catucci, Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce;
Erin Donovan-Boyle, Greater Newport Chamber of Commerce; Peg Fradette, Narragansett Chamber of Commerce;
Stephen M. Lombardi, East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce; Laura McNamara, East Providence
Area Chamber of Commerce; Mark G. DeVine, East Bay Chamber of Commerce; Lauren Slocum, Central Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce;
Kristin Urbach; North Kingstown Chamber of Commerce; and Joe Viele, Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce.