Like every other business NorthChamber has faced many challenges since lockdown over 7 weeks ago. We’re a small team and juggling family and other personal commitments while continuing to work on behalf of our members has been a learning curve. “Since our move to working remotely we’ve naturally questioned the Chamber’s ‘business as usual’ activities and we’ve shifted our energies very rapidly. Some activities have dropped, e.g. BA5s, and others have come into focus with our key service areas always at the forefront. For example, advocacy on behalf of members and creating ease of business through these COVID levels of operation”, explains CE Stephen Smith.

For Community Relationship Manager Paulette Scrooby checking in on members has remained a priority. With the support of Office Manager Janette Dobbs and the wider team these calls have fed into the weekly business intelligence reports that are passed onto Northland Inc, collated into a regional report, fed through to Civil defence, and onto government to help inform decisions and policy.

“The calls allow us to trouble shoot and refer members to the best agency for support. They’ve been a labour of love, often long, and filled with fears, frustrations, and all the concerns you’d expect to hear about, but also remarkably resilient, pragmatic, even humorous with many great ideas on the way forward. They’re a remarkable insight into our business community, and I feel more than a bit proud of our locals.”

Our Board of Directors have also stepped up, adding a weekly online COVID response meeting to its calendar. This has proved invaluable for feeding insights from their respective industries into our reporting, and providing expert guidance around some of the legal, financial and HR issues that could be passed on to individual members with specific concerns.

Sales Manager Rebecca Varley has also been extra busy supporting the many enquiries for support through Business Mentoring New Zealand. “In the last month enquiries have quadrupled and that’s in line with the national trend. NZTE have subsidised the mentor registration fee to assist businesses to access the help they need.” Rebecca has approximately 40 active business mentors in Northland but is always on the lookout for more, especially in the current economic climate. “The right match gets new businesses moving forward, it’s fantastic to see the success mentoring can achieve and a very rewarding part of my role.”

CE Stephen Smith has busy days filled too with COVID matters and providing guidance for members, but his eye remains firmly on the recovery phase and a large part of his time has been spent collaborating with local government and key stakeholders around short and medium-term needs for Northland business. Alongside our Job Lab partners, Stephen has been developing the next iteration of Job Lab, the 2.0 of our February project seeking to match employers and potential employees, and link in training providers and employment experts. “Securing funding and expanding Job Lab throughout Northland will be a key component in kickstarting our economy, and dovetails in nicely with the ‘Big 5’ infrastructure projects and long list of ‘shovel ready’ projects that are vital in Northlands post COVID recovery phase.”

NorthChamber has also been supportive in the organic rise of the “What’s Next Whangarei” and “Whangarei District Love it Local “Facebook pages and will continue to work with and
support community initiatives.

As things shift rapidly, we face new challenges, our daily conversation is full of new words and concepts, like our members and the wider business community we continue to search for the new normal. What doesn’t change is our commitment to work with and for our members and our local businesses, and the knowledge that we can achieve great things when we pull together.

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