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Message from the President | June 2020

President/CEO A.J. Baynes
President/CEO A.J. Baynes

The Western New York region moved into Phase Two reopening today, two weeks after getting state approval to begin the rollout of the local economy. This is an important step because it means back to work for many businesses, including limited retail, hair salons and barber shops that have been unable to operate since March. It also brings us that much closer to Phases Three and Four.

Almost three months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the human toll has been great. More than 6,000 positive cases of the virus in Erie County with fatalities topping 500. The economic toll is also great. Unemployment in WNY is nearing 25%. One out of every four people is jobless.

Controlling the spread of the virus will help us gain traction on both fronts. New York State is issuing strict protocol, including mask-wearing in public and social distancing of at least six feet.

The Chamber has heard from businesses who are frustrated and confused over reopening guidelines. We have been in contact with the Governor’s Office, the Lt. Governor’s Office and Empire State Development over these procedures and are advocating on your behalf. Please contact us if you need help securing PPE, including masks.

The Chamber has been in the forefront of the business community rebound from the crisis, launching last week the “Save Main Street” initiative. This plan calls for waiving permits to allow Amherst restaurants to expand outdoor seating once on premises dining returns in Phase Three. We are glad Town Supervisor Brian Kulpa sees the value in this effort that will help restaurants seat more customers and recoup money lost when the pandemic closed dining areas. The Town is now accepting applications for restaurants wanting to repurpose outdoor space. Be sure to check out this newsletter for our extensive media coverage on this initiative. It is important that the Chamber continues to be a strong voice in the economic recovery of our region as it positions us to better effect change.

The Chamber is also offering another full line-up of programs to help our members navigate this crisis. Tomorrow, our Open ProNet addresses businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 shutdown. Chamber member Arrowvine will present alternative lending solutions to help rightsize your bottom line. Register here.

Recognizing that we have a great deal to learn from our community business leaders during this challenging time, the Chamber brought back our West Herr Driven to Success Series. On June 4 at noon, Kevin Murphy, Bank of America Buffalo Market President will join us for a videoconference discussing how he ascended the ranks in the banking industry and how his experience has helped him adapt to the current situation. Register here.

As businesses reopen and people start heading back to the office or workplace, we can’t forget the threat of COVID-19 is still real. That is why Chamber member The Coppola Firm will host a webinar on Monday, June 8 at 10 a.m. on what happens when COVID-19 turns up on the job. Attorneys Lisa Coppola and Jennifer Scharf will tell us what every business should know to protect employees and customers. Register here.

The Chamber also understands that some days we all need to take a breather, and what better way to de-stress and have some fun than to join us for a virtual wine tasting! Tips and Sips will take place on Tuesday, June 16th at 6 p.m. It’s easy to participate. Buy your ticket here, pickup your wine and then log on to our virtual presentation that features a “Tour of Italy’s Summer Wines” with Eric, a wine expert from City Wine Merchant in Buffalo. Everyone is welcome.

Thanks to the resiliency of our residents and business community, we are slowly and safely coming back from the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Let’s continue to move forward, together, and remember my virtual door is always open.


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