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Message from A.J. Baynes: September 2021

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

As summer comes to an "official close," we can already see our incredible community swing into their fourth quarter preparation and execution.

While many of the shutdown regulations have been rolled back throughout the year, businesses still face numerous challenges regarding employee hiring, in-office scheduling, and vaccine requirements, among other challenges. The Chamber took numerous steps this year to assist our membership with their needs; we worked with the Department of Labor and our members in identifying potential new employees, we hosted several educational forums this summer regarding the HEROS Act, Employee Retention Credit, and kept our members connected through our ProNetworking groups.   While we shift into our fall programming, we remain committed to keeping you informed on how your business may be affected by additional regulations from our government. In addition, last Thursday, the President announced vaccine mandates for employers with more than one hundred employees. While there hasn't been official language issued as of this writing, be assured The Chamber is discussing best practices with HR directors and larger scale employers in addressing this new mandate.

While we continue to be responsible in our COVID guidelines and ensuring our members stay safe, I am encouraged by the continued positive momentum we have seen with new members, ribbon cuttings, and the desire to stay connected.  The schedule at the Chamber has something for everyone. With so many events being limited last year, the theme for September seems to be everything in a set of "two."  We have TWO New Member Orientations happening for the first time at the Chamber, Wednesday and Friday this week. In addition, Lunch Mob this Thursday at the Amherst Ale House, along with a Ribbon Cutting and Business After Hours Mixer with the Southtowns Regional Chamber of Commerce at Wesolowski Law Group and a second Ribbon Cutting at the Bridal Chateau later that evening.

In addition, our West Herr Driven to Success Series featuring District Attorney John Flynn will occur at Chef's restaurant downtown for lunch later in the month.  A second Business Afterhours set for September 21 at The Buffalo News, where we will hear from Publisher Tom Wiley and Editor Mike Connelly about the recent changes at the Buffalo News, the future of news, and the future direction of Buffalo from the vantage point where Tom and Mike sit.  We work hard at the Chamber to ensure our members feel connected to what is happening in our community and this Business After Hours is precisely the type of event that does just that.

One of the mainstay events happening later this fall is The EVENT.  Unfortunately, we were unable to have this great event in 2020. Still, we are thrilled to bring it back in 2021, where we will honor numerous businesses and projects that deserve their recognition, especially after the past twenty months.  We have enjoyed record turnout for THE EVENT over the past three years, and if our Small Business Awards Luncheon turnout is any indication of the future, I am confident we will set another record Monday, October 25.  We are still accepting nominations, and you can find additional information (here).

Every October, the Chamber shines a bright light on employee benefits with the start of open enrollment for health insurance.  This year is no different, and our members who are currently enrolled can expect to receive a call or an email from Penny LaPlaca, our Benefits Manager, regarding the updated offerings from all three major carriers.  Also, members who do not currently receive employee benefits from the Chamber are encouraged to research our offerings on our website.  We have expanded our offerings considerably over the years to include Dental and Vision, Life Insurance, and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP).  You will be hard-pressed to find a more competitive rate in the marketplace regarding EAP programs. The Chamber recognizes the difficulty and the competitiveness in obtaining and retaining employees, which is why we hope all employers consider providing EAPs as an added benefit for employees at a nominal cost, making your total compensation package much more attractive.  Penny and the team will be rolling out more information throughout the months ahead.

The focus of the Chamber has been and remains committed to assisting all businesses regardless of size or geographical location.  Our team sits on several boards and forums throughout the community, ensuring your voice is heard. For example, last year Erie County put together the Back to Business Taskforce with several subcommittees to better understand how to assist the struggling business community.  Our own Christine Langenfeld was part of those discussions, and as the Chamber represented the voice of small business, one thing was clear, the need to shop local was needed more than ever.  The birth of the successful Shop 716 initiatives came from those discussions, and the Amherst Chamber of Commerce played a pivotal role in launching and executing the Shop 716 eGift Card program in conjunction with Erie County.  Over 700 merchants participated, with more than 1.2 million dollars spent in our local community.

This week, we are excited to announce we are rebooting this incredible program again through Erie County's assistance, the Erie County Bicentennial Committee, and Visit Buffalo Niagara

 This year we hope that we can infuse over two million dollars into our local economy.  You will hear and see a lot more about this program in the coming days, but you will always be able to find more information here on our website

We have a lot going on at the Chamber and in our community.  I encourage you to stay connecting by visiting our website or following our social media pages for the latest happenings at the Chamber.  We will continue our outreach to members to serve you better, but please remember my door is always open.

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