Flexibility is the key for valley merchants sailing stormy seas

Kristin Kemak

The Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce is indefinitely closing its brick-and-mortar location in a move that will save as much $30,000 a year.

The organization’s last day at its office at 825 Sixth St. in Clarkston is Nov. 30, said Chamber President and CEO Kristin Kemak.

“We don’t like to say anything is permanent or forever,” she said. “That’s just going to be how it is now.”

The group made the decision following a period of almost three months ending in early June where the chamber had to temporarily suspend its office operations to comply with coronavirus restrictions, Kemak said.

Her employees met daily via Zoom and once a week for coffee at local businesses when the rules allowed it, she said.

“We found we were really good at it,” she said. “We were able to maintain appropriate communication between our staff and members.”

The chamber’s staff of three full-time employees, one part-time employee and a contracted employee completed a number of projects from home.

One was raising $32,000 from local donors for grants of as much as $1,000 to help ventures facing drops in revenue because of the pandemic, Kemak said.

“We still have money left to give,” she said.

It also offered instruction to help business owners learn to sell goods and services online and provided information from the national chamber organization about how to get federal aid.

But even as the chamber was a resource for businesses trying to overcome pandemic-related obstacles, it has faced its own challenges, Kemak said.

“It’s a struggle,” she said. “I’m very pleased with the number of members who have been able to maintain their membership dues.”

But the chamber did have to call off most of its events. Among the money-makers that were canceled were business after hours, the North Idaho Legislative Tour and monthly lunches.

“We wanted to be sure we were doing our best to protect the community, chamber members and our staff,” Kemak said.

Cutting the expense of maintaining an office will ease the financial pressure on the chamber without interfering with its ability to serve members, she said.

“We’re still functioning,” Kemak said. “You dial our phone (number) and somebody answers it.”

Williams may be contacted at ewilliam@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2261.

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