As we move into the new year, the winter season is finally upon us, and unfortunately, we continue to deal with the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. While these roadblocks are met with frustration, I remain inspired by the business owners who continue to push forward with such resolve to persevere. A recent survey released just before the end of the year from Wilmington Trust found that "business owner optimism and confidence in the U.S. economy and their own businesses are almost back to pre-pandemic levels with 77% saying they are very optimistic about their business prospects – approaching the 81% who answered the same just before the pandemic." The Chamber maintains that same optimism revealed in the survey. In addition, I am happy to report that new membership signups for December 2021 exceeded that of our pre-pandemic December 2019 new membership signups. These statistics give me confidence that our team continues to represent your best interest, and it is resonating throughout our community. We will continue to fight on your behalf, assist in helping our businesses navigate a tight job market, deal with the disruption of the supply chain and echo your voice when it comes to the regulations that could be placed on your business with rising COVID-19 cases.
While we have seen signs of returning to pre-pandemic levels, sadly though, at this time, our Annual Meeting and State of the Town of Amherst, one of the mainstay Chamber events, will remain virtual. We enjoyed hosting over 450 people just before the pandemic in January of 2020; however, we were forced to go virtual last year. We have opted to remain virtual for this event this year and look forward to returning in person in 2023. We are thrilled to be hosted by Daemen College for this event once again. Please keep an eye out for more details will follow on how you can join us to hear from our Chamber Board Chairman Mark Gaulin, Amherst Town Supervisor Brian Kulpa, and about the Chamber's legislative agenda for 2022. Register here.
As I mentioned earlier, the Chamber reached pre-pandemic levels for new members in the month of December. We are encouraged that we exceeded our December 2020 and December 2019 numbers but recognize that we need to deliver for our membership in all facets of our organization. We have several opportunities for members to network and grow their contact list through our ProNets. ProNet allows members to meet other business owners, present potential leads, and sort through any challenges you may have in your own business. I'd encourage you to email email@example.com to learn more about the chance to join. Thursday, January 20, the Chamber will kick off Lunch Mob at Glen Park Tavern; please be sure to register by visiting our event calendar at amherst.org/events. Reservations are required for this event, but we strongly encourage you to bring a colleague or even a non-chamber member to showcase the diversity of our membership. We had a tremendous turnout at Fresh Catch in early December, and I hope to duplicate that turnout again.
The Chamber finished 2021 on a high note with our benefits team. We have grown our benefits side of the business and expanded our offerings. We still encourage employers to learn more about our Employee Assistance Program. We have worked diligently with Child and Family Services to provide an incredibly reasonable plan for employers to offer their employees AND their families. We have also partnered with Buffalo First Advisory Services to offer Life Insurance to Chamber members and have made obtaining a quote as easy as possible. Be sure to visit the Insurance & EAP section of our website.
The Chamber will kick off the 2022 EBL Leadership Program on February 25 at the University at Buffalo Incubator. We encourage young professionals looking to be Western New York's future decision-makers to apply. The program will combine in-person and virtual training on workplace issues, networking and mentoring opportunities, volunteer services, and social events. So if you know someone whom you think would be a good fit in your organization, there is still time to apply. EBL Leadership is available to non-chamber members as well.
The winter months can sometimes feel long, but we know our shortest day of light is behind us, and brighter days are ahead. We will continue to work diligently on behalf of our members, and we look forward to hearing from you; please remember that my door is always open.