It often comes in the form of this question: “How are things going?”
Given my role at the Boulder Chamber, it’s not surprising that folks want to know how I think our local businesses are faring or about the latest indications of economic health. Make no mistake, the impact of this pandemic — in terms of lost lives and business fortunes, alone — is nothing short of tragic. I also know it will take years of hard work to recover from the economic hole our response to COVID-19 has created, work that must begin now.
Yet, it’s not my nature to dwell in what I refer to as, “that dark hole,” by sharing tales of economic woe and personal tragedy. That’s not just because I work in an industry that often is accused of seeing things through rose colored glasses (as characterized by the expression, “chamber of commerce day”). While not shying from reality, I stand guilty as charged in striving to sustain a spirit of relentless positivity as the source of my personal strength in tackling the challenges ahead.
In that same spirit, and as light at the end of the proverbial tunnel appears in the form of protective vaccines, I’ve been reflecting recently on other uplifting lights in the darkness I’ve witnessed over the past year. There are many, but I offer the following as examples that might remind you of others you’ve personally observed:
My friend, a physician assistant, revealed the other day that he’s “frightened” at work. He confronts the daily risk of COVID-19 exposure, which presents a threat to his personal health and to those he loves. While there may be common respect for frontline health-care workers, those who don’t live it every day might not recognize what an amazing act of bravery it is to toil in the belly of the beast.
There are many others who face similar exposure risks, from first responders to individuals working in essential businesses under difficult conditions. They are there for us in moments of need, they keep our food system operating, they manufacture the very vaccines that will end this pandemic. I will be forever grateful for their heroism in the face of personal health threats.
I well remember the very first meeting of our Boulder Area Business Response and Recovery Alliance. Before remote work was a mandate, representatives from all of Boulder’s leading business support agencies — the city’s Community Vitality Department, the Boulder CVB, Downtown Boulder, the Latino Chamber, and the SBDC, along with partners from Boulder County and the office of Congressman Joe Neguse — met at the Boulder Chamber Center to begin understanding the threat COVID-19 presented and to plot our response. We couldn’t predict then the enormity of the task in front of us.
Months of collective brainstorming and collaborative action later, our Alliance — which now extends to similar collaboration among economic support agencies across Boulder County — has provided invaluable information resources, advocated for responsive policies, and initiated numerous support programs. Examples range from direct grant assistance and countless industry-specific guidance webinars to outdoor restaurant seating protocols and retail marketing campaigns. Through it all, our alliance team members have forged a working relationship that will pay lasting dividends for our economy and community.
We can all take pride in the generosity our community has exhibited throughout the COVID crisis. It’s come in the form of major philanthropic contributions to relief funds, the purchase of WiFi tools for otherwise disconnected families, sanitized food delivery services to elderly residents, and even simply directing staff holiday party funds toward the purchase of gift cards from local businesses. I’ve also marveled at the heart and ingenuity local businesses have demonstrated in the care for their customers and staff team “families.”
One of my personal shining lights is seeing how strong our Boulder Chamber staff members have stood in the face of incredible demands. They’ve helped so many through their can-do spirit, energy and creativity. I can’t be more thankful for that. And then there’s been the joy of more time with my true anchor of support, Molly-T.
There certainly is much difficulty ahead in our battle with COVID-19. Still, as we press forward in our response and recovery, I draw strength from those shining lights that have revealed themselves during our darkest hours. With the holiday spirit upon us, I hope we all continue to draw from that same well of strength and hope in our drive toward brighter days ahead.
John Tayer is president and CEO of the Boulder Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at 303-442-1044, ext 110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.