Wayzata Chamber Weathers COVID Storm

COVID-19 has fundamentally changed what we do. The ripple effect of health and economic impacts has touched everyone.

Bellecour Restaurant, Wayzata

Local businesses have taken a big hit. Recently, Wayzata’s Bellecour Restaurant announced it closed its doors for example.

Other businesses are doing their best to stay afloat as they navigate COVID-related restrictions.

Chambers of commerce who support those local businesses have not been insulated from the jolt.

The Excelsior Lake Minnetonka Chamber of Commerce has launched a program called “Help Save The Chamber” to raise funds. The organizations goal is to raise $130,000 by the end of the year. Community residents and businesses have rallied around the chamber holding fundraisers and making donations.

A big cause of the dire straits is the cancellation of annual events due to COVID-19. The revenue from these events fund a big chunk of a chamber’s budget.

The Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce recently announced that one of its biggest events and revenue generators, 2020 James J.Hill Days, has been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Events are an important contribution to our annual operating budget,” said Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce President Becky Pierson. “That said, revenue from our member dues along with other membership revenue is also critical.  The two together cover 50/50 of our overall budget.”

Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce President Becky Pierson

Fortunately for Wayzata’s chamber, it has money to fall back on.

“We are utilizing current revenues and siphoning off cash reserves we have saved as a result of a 5-year strategic plan goal established several years ago to support the Chamber in case an event is cancelled or weather impacted an event.” 

On Tuesday, the Wayzata City Council will consider approving an agreement with the Wayzata Chamber for temporary communications services through the end of the year.

If approved, the city would pay the chamber $4,000 per month to write and produce communications for the city.

The other piece of the revenue puzzle is membership dues.

Greater Wayzata Area Chamber of Commerce President Becky Pierson, Director of Community Events & Marketing Brooke Beyer, Director of Membership Services Kathy Peterson, Communications Coordinator Olivia Laskey

“Many businesses and members are having a hard time managing expenses,” said Pierson. “We have a broad and varied membership base of 400+ and each impacted differently. We are grateful when members have been able to renew their membership, we have also had new members join our chamber and when members are struggling we work with them on payment options.”

Of course, the challenges facing chambers is not isolated to the Lake Minnetonka area.

Darren Noble Executive Director of the SouthWest Metro Chamber of Commerce

“Many businesses impacted by COVID-19 have had to reduce staff size & hours, and unfortunately we’ve had to as well,” said Darren L. Noble Executive Director of the SouthWest Metro Chamber of Commerce. “Our Chamber, which serves four communities (Carver, Chanhassen, Chaska, and Victoria) reduced its staff size this past May; however, we continue to be mission-focused and eager to help businesses through this challenging period.”

Anne Yoder, Senior Director, Communications, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce

“We work with the entire network of local chambers throughout the state,” said Anne Yoder, Senior Director, Communications, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. “Since the onset of COVID-19, they have pivoted their services and events to meet the needs of their members, by providing resources and connections to funding, and shifting in-person events to virtual where possible. As chambers and their members focus on surviving the pandemic and resulting Executive Orders, they understand that budgets will be tighter.”

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce organized the MinnesotaReady Coalition. This group of chambers advocate for common interests to elected officials. It is an effort to make sure businesses are represented in the decision making on reopening Minnesota’s economy. Wayzata’s chamber is a member of the coalition.

“COVID-19 has had fundamental impacts on our economy – some businesses will not survive, some will change their business products or functions to meet COVID needs to adjust for a remote workforce,” said Yoder. “But the fundamental operations of a chamber have remained the same in the 100+ years that the industry has existed: To provide a voice for business, support and connections for the business community as a whole. The strong chamber network that exists in Minnesota will continue to provide high caliber return on investment for all of their members.”

“Chambers of Commerce are vital to their communities and worth the investment; our Chamber’s mission is to serve and strengthen our member businesses as a community partner and resource,” said Noble. “We stimulate the local economy through programs, events, and services that promote business activities and encourage entrepreneurs.  Also, we advocate for a pro-business climate and strong economic vitality via our relationships with the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, local/state/federal elected officials, and community leaders.”

“Our Mission remains our focus, to be a positive force in the Community; promoting, connecting and supporting our members, “said Pierson.

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