"Businesses are struggling. We're going to come out of it, but how do we come out of it stronger?"
Shane Etzwiler, President and CEO of the Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce says they’ve seen a mix of hurting and thriving businesses this year, but offer financial and fundamental resources to anyone who needs them whether they’re a member or not.
"We represent the entire business community. In August we had 10 new businesses join the Chamber. We just live in a fluid environment right now where things are constantly changing,” said Etzwiler.
He says ‘Mom and Pop’ shops, hotels, and entertainment companies are losing the most this summer. We feel their pain. We're trying to help them stay relevant, we're trying to help them stay within the community and that top/mind awareness. We’ve lost a considerable amount of revenue just through events. In fact, Chambers on the national level, their revenue is down 30-50%."
The Chamber is involved in larger state and federal economic task forces with the hopes of securing as much money as possible for local business owners from the Cares Act.
"I know the state still has some funding and they're still looking for opportunities on how we can best give some of the business owners some relief. So we continue to give that information to the Governor's office. I think there's opportunity no matter what's going on in Great Falls," said Etzwiler.
He adds, there's plenty of hope for local small businesses during this pandemic; like Firehouse Steamers, Hokkaido Ramen and Sushi, Montana Pints, and Five on Black, who each opened up right at the beginning.
"We opened up for a month and then we ended up closing down," explains Travis Teipel, General Manager of MT Pints.
Although it’s been an interesting beginning, Teipel says everyone has been patient and compliant to Governor Bullock’s mask mandate.
He adds, "The biggest struggle was reopening. Initially it was kind of scary going into it but after that business didn't slow down."
Even with such uncertain economic times, Etzwiler has a positive outlook on how to successfully guide the Electric City through the pandemic and the Chamber is always there for large and small businesses no matter what.
"We want to be stronger as a community when we're all done with this."
The Chamber did not have any specific figures on how much money they've secured for local businesses so far this year, but Etzwiler says they're working closely with several state and federal agencies.