The 116th Annual meeting of the Thurston County Chamber of Commerce was a hybrid, with both in-person attendees at the Hotel RL and online attendees watching a live stream today.
It was the first in-person Chamber forum meeting in more than a year, since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, said David Schaffert, Chamber CEO, on June 16.
The in-person attendance was approximately 150, including many local elected officials, all without masks.
“A lot of people have thanked me for having a live, in-person meeting,” Schaffert told the audience. “This is where we are today with a hybrid model. A lot of people are ready to get back together.”
Schaffert asked the audience to be patient with the forum format, as everyone was out of practice and rusty with time scheduling especially with meal delivery during the meeting.
“We’re ready to get back into it,” he said.
Schaffert detailed the Chamber’s annual budget, as well as some of the numbers that the Chamber generated during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to help small businesses.
The Chamber held 52 webinars that served more than 1,022 attendees and conducted 210 ribbon tyings, retaining 87 percent of its pre-COVID membership. The Chamber gained 108 new members during the last year.
Schaffert highlighted that 2,894 total businesses were served, with 10,917 total services provided, and 179,309 total business engagements.
“We shifted 180 degrees on how we served our membership,” Schaffert said. “The term ‘disruption’ when referring to COVID-19 is an understatement.”
Outgoing Chamber Board Chair Joseph Lanham of Wells Fargo Bank said that the Chamber’s advocacy of small business is an important aspect to highlight during the pandemic and how it can help bridge the gap when it comes to affordable housing issues.
“Sometimes I find that we are not advocating enough for those who can create affordable housing,” Lanham said. “Every fee adds costs to a building. We have to be very careful as we consider what charges we put on developers because it has an impact down the road. It directly influences the cost of housing to the end consumer. And no one’s cost of housing went up because someone increased the supply of housing in our community.”