This is the final installment of our year in review where we remember the good things that happened in 2020, while also recognizing the struggles we’ve overcome. In Part I, we looked at some good things that were currently underway, or about to happen, over the holidays. In Part II we highlighted the Chamber’s Annual Award Winners and the early COVID-19 adjustments. Last week in Part III, we dove into how the pandemic lockdown highlighted how the chamber of commerce helps the entire region, and we recalled the Community Matters pages in May that helped local businesses and non-profit fundraisers.

This week I want to highlight one success per month over the final seven months of the year. These won’t be as in-depth as the previous parts of this series, but they should also be fresher in your mind, so I hope that balances out. Let’s begin in June.

June 2020. The 8th Annual Hacker’s Ball (the SMMC Golf Tournament) was held June 26 at the Brunswick Golf Club. The distinguishing characteristic is that the tournament was the first chamber tournament in the state as no of my colleagues had figured out yet how to do a COVID-considerate tournament. With major help from AJ Kavanaugh of the BGC, we made a safe, socially distanced tournament plan including food and side games for our players. The guidelines we created were shared with local non-profit organizations for their tournaments, and with chambers of commerce throughout the state for their fundraising tournaments.

July 2020. Our second major survey of the year was called Consumer Attitudes on Masking and Social Distancing in Maine Businesses and we released our results at the very end of June, which hit many business publications in early July including MaineBiz and an interview on MainePublic’s Maine Calling show. The survey was taken by 2,930 Maine consumers. Key results included:

– Over 25% of respondents reported they had left a business due to COVID-19 behaviors because they felt unsafe, and an additional 25% said they would if put in that situation;

– Over half of the respondents said they would not return to a business if they witnessed poor COVID-19 safety protocol adherence;

– 1/3 of respondents who have witnessed poor adherence to COVID-19 protocols by employees at a business have or would share their negative experiences on social media or with a family member; that number rises to 4 in 10 if it is poor adherence by customers at a business;

– More than ¼ of respondents would travel over 25 miles to go to a community to shop and eat that was adhering to safe community standards for COVID-19.

What these results told business owners is that, if you don’t adhere to safety protocols for COVID-19, customers will notice and they will share that with loved ones and on social media. It also emboldened business leaders to be more stringent with their friends and customers who didn’t want to adhere. Every time someone is seen in your business not adhering to safety, word spreads. Essentially, good safety protocols is more than just a good community health practice – it’s good business.

August 2020. August was the most normal time of the year and we all needed it. State visitor restrictions were lessened, outdoor activities could be done in a more socially-distanced way and it seemed everyone took a little time to enjoy the summer. For many it was a welcome reprieve with a new school year beginning soon.

September 2020. Over the summer, and with COVID-19 protocols becoming easier to navigate, many organizations were making plans for the Fall. We collectively figured out how to adapt our programming to make it safer and thus many more activities emerged in the Fall. Two examples from our chamber were hosting a statewide conference of Chamber Executives at Sebasco Harbor Resort in September and partnering on a multiple week online leadership training course. For each of these programs, we adapted what we normally do to accommodate the COVID-19 safety protocols. For the conference it meant having virtual presenters, two people per table and masking while moving. For Leaders Lead in the Midcoast it meant making Zoom our classroom rather than an actual classroom for the six-week course.

October 2020. With the election on the doorstep, we adapted our typical Meet the Candidate Business Breakfast events into an online video series. This allowed for some incredible content as we filmed 18 candidate one-on-one interviews with the candidates for the 9 State Senate and House seats, from our region. Additionally, we held four candidate forums with candidates of the same seats sharing opinions on relevant business topics. It became a great away for us to showcase these community leaders, and the video aspect made their viewpoints accessible anytime to anyone.

November 2020. November was highlighted by the Midcoast Tree Festival being postponed and the creation of the Midcoast Tree Auction. Through a great partnership with Spectrum Generations and All Saints Parish, we converted our holiday event into an online auction. The event featured 58 auction lots, and thousands of dollars worth of items and experiences to bid on. In all, the event raised over $13,000, but more importantly, many businesses bought items to donate to their auction lots from other local businesses accounting for thousands of dollars being spent in the local economy that otherwise wouldn’t have been.

December 2020. December was highlighted by the great work of Main Street Bath with their holiday programs, Brunswick Downtown Association lighting up downtown, the Harpswell Home Heating Fund auction through Cook’s Lobster & Ale House, and other numerous local organizations who went out of their way to make the holiday season special.

It was a tough year, but we adapted. We did have losses, but through that adversity we found strength in our community and sympathy for each other, and those are two great things to carry forward into 2021.

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