With every New Year, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce thanks the outgoing volunteer Chair of the Board for their service to our Chamber and the community. We then simultaneously recognize and celebrate the new volunteer Chair who takes on this role. So today, I want to thank Kevin Hedley, of Hedley and Company, for his extraordinary leadership in 2020. I also want to recognize Skip Carlson, of the Saratoga Casino Hotel, who is now the Chair of the Chamber’s Board, a leadership role that will span all of 2021.
I’d like to think that Skip Carlson’s year will be simpler than Kevin Hedley’s. I suspect we all hope that 2021 will be better than 2020. I, for one, believe that 2020 might have been the Chamber’s finest hour. When faced with a pandemic, we moved immediately to help everyone — members and non-member. We joined forces with Discover Saratoga, the DBA, Prosperity Partnership and the City Center to help everyone. We relentlessly communicated via email and social media to share the most important local information we had about loans, reopening protocols, special promotions, health metrics, and how everyone could help save our locals.
Looking forward, Skip Carlson asked the 27 volunteers who will serve on the Chamber’s Board of Directors to take a brief survey. We asked these leaders that represent small and large businesses, nonprofits and educational institutions, to rate what we had done in 2020 and to suggest what new initiatives should be added for this year. From this survey, we developed this list of five goals to help guide our work this year:
1. Get as many Saratoga County residents vaccinated as possible. This may seems like a strange goal for a predominantly business focused organization. The reality, however, is that until we achieve some form of herd immunity that many of our local businesses will remain closed or substantially restricted. We started work right after New Year’s on this goal. First, we were a visible and vocal advocate for local vaccination sites across Saratoga County and for a mass vaccination site at the Saratoga Springs City Center. To get people vaccinated, we need local sites and a place in Saratoga where we can do them in bulk. Second, we will soon announce a new partnership to help people celebrate getting the vaccination shot and hopefully inspiring others to follow their lead.
2. Relentless communication to share timely, locally focused, useful information to those in our email database and those who follow us on social media. Last year under Kevin Hedley’s leadership, there were times where we sent an email every day to everyone in our database. Nearly 500,000 people opened one or more of our emails in 2020. The number of emails opened — which means they were read — was ten times higher than in 2019. You know an email is valuable if the email open rate is high. Our open rate skyrocketed in 2020.
3. Promote. Promote Promote. We’re going to continue to promote locally all businesses and nonprofits in Saratoga County as long as they need help. We’re going to expand our promotion of all of the Villages, Towns, and Cities across Saratoga County and beyond. We’ll also ready to promote Saratoga County as a great place to visit, to live, to work as well as to start, grow or expand your business.
4. SAVE OUR LOCALS – This campaign has worked. Look us up on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. We’re promoting locally owned businesses via social media every day. In any given week on Facebook alone, we’re doing 75 to 100 individual posts. We’re boosting many of them to expand the reach to even more prospective customers or clients. Local businesses that need more than just promotion can also access free small business counseling via SCORE. You can also call or email the Chamber to share whatever it is you need or to ask any question. We’ll do our best to respond with the best information or ideas we have.
5. Personal, impactful outreach. In 2020, we delivered recovery kits filled with PPE as businesses reopened. We distributed posters this past year that said “Stronger Together” and pumpkins etched with our Save Our Locals logo. We continue to distribute posters reminding people to “Mask Up.” As employees at local businesses and nonprofits get vaccinated, we will be distributing posters that will say #IGotTheShot. We hope you will see these everywhere. It will be a sign that we are all stronger together and that healthier more prosperous days are ahead of us.