A culture of continual innovation.
When I think about the Chamber, that’s how I would sum us up.
We do great work and then we figure out how we can make it even better. Can we serve more people, can we increase our impact, can we accomplish more than our original goal? We sometimes laugh that when you put our team in a room together there’s no shortage of ideas. That spirit and drive though, is what I love about this organization, the team behind it, and the partners that support us.
Our business community makes it possible for us to try new things. You make it possible for us to tackle tough issues and to think creatively. Your support for our work motivates us and keeps us focused on innovation.
Please enjoy learning more about the opportunities you made possible this past year in our annual report. And of course, if you have an idea for us, we’re all ears.
President, Lake Champlain Chamber
Seeking economic opportunity for all
The Chamber staff focused early efforts on member outreach and essential information. Touching base with our members through thousands of calls and emails, we listened to what they needed. And we responded.
When the world was sent home, we brought everyone together. We coordinated the largest coalition of Vermont organizations to-date to prevent the taxation of forgiven PPP loans. We petitioned to extend the to-go liquor executive order. We set up semi-weekly calls with Congressional Delegation Staff, Administration staff, and the SBA to relay information from our business partners. We hosted timely roundtable discussions, seminars, and interviews, addressing topics from COVID-19 testing and vaccinations in the workplace to non-profit fundraising and job searching during a pandemic.
When we weren’t collecting, sorting and sharing the most pertinent information in the Advocacy Updates and our virtual events and programming, our team responded to your immediate needs with our Rapid Response Form. Ensuring that no matter your inquiry, we had a solution to you in 48 hours or less.
But we weren’t the only ones working to support our business community: thanks to YOUR generous donations made as part of the Pay-It-Forward initiative, we were able to support the dues of members who were hardest hit by the pandemic. The connection to the Chamber network and services offered peace of mind when businesses and organizations needed us most.
Celebrating business ownership and entrepreneurship
Whether starting or growing a business, we were there every step of the way.
Rapidly shifting guidance, emerging relief funds and tips for navigating our new virtual world were hallmarks of the early days of our COVID-19 Resource Page. We have since transformed our pandemic resource page to the Resource Center, a one-stop-shop for pertinent information and resources. Our Resource Center taps into our member’s expertise and connects our greater business community to the tools they need to succeed here in Vermont.
And amongst all the resource creation and content generating, we found time to celebrate business.
Starting with LaunchVT. The past year didn’t extinguish our community’s entrepreneurial spirit. The latest cohort of LaunchVT left the accelerator with a refined and polished pitch deck, and extensive connections. Not only did we celebrate their ingenuity but their diversity: 73% of the businesses in LaunchVT’s last five cohorts have been women or BIPOC led, and 100% of their cash investment over the last 3 years have gone to women or BIPOC led businesses.
Even with events being cancelled and postponed, we continued on with our Annual Dinner awards. Our virtual event recognized the incredible achievements of our business community. Our most notable award of the evening was Business of the Year which recognized not one but our entire business community. Because in the end, we all deserve some recognition.
Promoting a robust, diversified visitor economy.
With travel restrictions, occupancy limitations and hesitancy, our tourism marketing efforts were reinvented. Hello Burlington quickly reshifted their marketing demographics to Vermonters and those within driving distance of our region. Securing grant funding for a gift card program, we encouraged local spending and urged Vermonters to play tourist in their own backyard.
Once the world reopened to travel, Hello Burlington and the Vermont Convention Bureau went into overdrive to make sure our region was captivating the attention of travelers and meeting planners. The conversation on diversity, race and inclusion wasn’t excluded from our tourism initiatives. To help contribute to our region’s diversity and promote our region as the welcoming place we all know it to be, Hello Burlington has been bringing in diverse social media influencers and content creators.
Cultivating Community leadership
The 32nd cohort of Leadership Champlain were trailblazers, completing their entire Leadership Champlain class year virtually. They spent nine months becoming educated on the different challenges facing our community, and connecting to leaders like Congressman Peter Welch and Vermont Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine, who they may not have been able to access in a solely in-person year. They served local organizations, while grappling with the many changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic themselves; they completed service projects for Hunger Free Vermont, Turning Point Center of Chittenden County, Burlington Electric Department, Chittenden County Accountable Community for Health, Age Well and Burlington Rotary Club.
We recognized that our community needs strong leaders more than ever. Our commitment to nurturing emerging leaders didn’t stop at Leadership Champlain. From workshops on emotional intelligence to diversity, equity and inclusion, we provided our community with multiple opportunities to further their leadership development.
We also see the importance of making sure our programming is inclusive. This year, Leadership Champlain is sponsoring the tuition for a cohort member that contributes to the diversity of the class, and with the help of the Chamber’s first-ever DEI committee, our commitment to making our organization and its programming more welcoming and accessible to all groups won’t stop there.
Nurturing emerging talent
Vermont is no stranger to workforce challenges, but this past year was particularly challenging. Staffing shortages have organizations rethinking their hours of operation and services and leave many questioning their future. While our advocacy team was hard at work securing additional funding to support these businesses, TalentBTV was working to facilitate connections.
Our relocation services were in full swing as we not only continued our Stay to Stay programming in a virtual context but acquired the Chittenden County chapter of the Vermont Welcome Wagon Project. This new partnership helps us “roll out the red carpet” for individuals who are either interested or recently relocated to Vermont.
And when we weren’t connecting recent relocators to Vermonters, we were connecting relocators and job seekers to employers courtesy of our resume drive and job board.