LA Metro region launches a colorful face covering campaign

The business community of the LA region has a new, colorful campaign highlighting the importance of wearing face coverings to ensure customers and employees feel safe, and the area’s businesses stay open.  The clear messaging and bright personas were developed by LA Metro Chamber of Commerce Director of Marketing and Communications Meredith Carson to promote a healthy, protected, all-inclusive, local economy.  

“Months ago, people were ready to do anything to support local businesses and keep them open. Today, the request from these same businesses is simple- mask up and be kind. It keeps businesses open, customers coming in, and staff safe” says Shanna Cox, President + CEO of the LA Metro Chamber of Commerce. Wearing a face covering in customer-facing businesses is a simple and effective way to help reduce the spread to customers and employees while also making those around us feel safe and protected. A Midcoast Chamber survey reaching 3,000 consumers in Maine showed that one out of two customers have or would leave a business if they didn’t feel safe. 


This campaign will run through October 31st, and features ads on CBS13, Fox23, Spectrum digital, as well as banners at multiple locations throughout Lewiston and Auburn. Any business can get a free laminated sign for their business at the LA Metro Chamber, or by visiting the City of Auburn or Lewiston. Staff from both municipalities will also be visiting business locations throughout the next two months to drop off signs and additional information about financial relief and business support. For more information, visit LAadapts.com or email Meredith@LAMetroChamber.com

Reopening: Your business, Your Chamber

Key Resources and Our Approach

Last Friday, late in the afternoon, the Mills administration announced the Rural Reopening Plan. This announcement was on the heels of the expanded testing announcement, made the day before. The major takeaway– 12 of our 16 counties would be opening retail, restaurants, and camping 2-3 weeks earlier than noted in the original stages of the Safe, Gradual Plan to Restart Maine’s Economy; Androscoggin was not among them

What does this mean for you?

You have the advantage of the next two weeks to prepare for reopening- a luxury many counties in Maine weren’t afforded. And you need this time to prepare. At the end of this post, I have called out the specific references and resources that you will find the most helpful. The single most important piece worth calling out twice is the General Guidance checklist. Any industry with their own checklist (listed on the DECD site now or in the future) requires you to also follow the general guidance. There are a lot of factors all businesses should be considering as Maine reopens. If you have been open all along– this new stage of reopening still offers new information and guidance for you that allows for interactions with the public and vendors again. If you are preparing to reopen, you will need to review the checklists that are available, keeping an eye out for new checklists for your industry, and most importantly– look for any changes in the general guidance specific to the relaxing of some protocols. 

What does this mean for us?

Like you, the LA Metro Chamber is preparing to reopen. We are looking at offering events limited to 50 people, hosting seminars onsite, and continuing our business services in office. We are committed to offering all in-person events with a virtual-join option for our at-risk members. We are also committed to our in-office and event operations following all Maine CDC guidance. 

What does “Reopening” really look like?

As we prepare, we wanted to share some of our key lessons with you, helping you think through your preparations. We have consulted with our attorney and insurance carriers. Consider this a case study, a peek inside how one organization is preparing. Here are the key factors that we suggest focusing on: 

Employee Preparedness and Protocols

Training– This includes providing the training outlined in the Retail Checklist, many of which we will be providing virtually to our members in the coming weeks to support you. Key trainings: 

  • Physical distancing expectations (required)
  • Monitoring and reporting employee personal health (required)
  • Cleaning protocols (required)
  • Use, removal, and disposal of PPE at work (required)
  • De-escalation techniques (suggested)

Remote Workforce– Your at risk employees are recommended to stay home when possible through Stage 3 (at least August). The Families First Coronavirus Response Act has implications for those who remain remote, as well as future sick or required quarantine absences that your workforce will experience. 

Staff Sentiment– This includes your staff’s readiness and willingness to participate in the work environment, interacting with members of the public who might be experiencing anxiety or anger, taking on new roles for cleaning or temperature checking, and more. 

Facility Preparedness and Protocols

Changes to the Physical Environment– This includes adding floor markings for 6ft distancing for line management, using floor marking to delineate public and employee-only spaces, closing or changing break rooms, changing furniture layouts, adding signage, and posting limits to the number of people. 

New Purchases– This could potentially include thermometers, disposable masks/face shields/gowns (industry dependent), clear barriers, single use items (condiments and more), and necessary disinfectant supplies. Be prepared, but patient while many of these items are in demand and delayed in shipping. 

Disinfectant Protocols- This includes clear internal procedures and processes for what gets cleaned, how often, by who, and how you record it. 

Risk and Liability 

Lawsuits may be next battleground for businesses as pandemic economy reopens- BDN Article

Employee Illness– This will be governed by the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act. From our attorney- “If the infection arose out of and in the course of employment, then it is compensable and the employer’s Workers’ Compensation insurer will be liable. 

Employee PPE– This is governed by OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. A few important notes (from our attorney)

  • While most guidance is suggested, face coverings for employees are mandatory. 
  • Employees must follow “informal dialog” under the ADA reasonable accommodation standard for any exemptions from face covering, and provide medical documentation to their employer to be exempt. 
  • If an employee refuses to wear PPE where required, they are subject to discipline. 
  • If an employee is symptomatic, they should be sent home. 

Public/Customer PPE– If a customer feels unsafe, they should be helped away from the business as soon as practicable. The Order to Stay Safer at Home (through May 31st with potential for extension) does not require a medical note provided for a customer’s refusal to wear a mask. The business will be responsible for weighing the risk of an ADA claim against their risk for public health and other customers’ claims. 

Will we see you soon?

As you, other businesses, and the Chamber prepare for reopening, there is plenty of excitement to see each other again. We are also hearing the trepidation from business owners as they gauge customer behavior. Will you take this 3 question poll to help us get an insight into customer behavior? Share with others and on your social media, helping us get meaningful results we can share with you and our members. 

TAKE THE POLL

DID WE MISS SOMETHING? 

Complete listing of Maine CDC’s FAQ’s

LA Metro Chamber key links and Pathway to Reopening recordings

PART 2: PIVOTING TO THE NEXT NORMAL

The past week has brought conflicting messages about a move towards reponening- if not normal- with an extension of the Maine state of civil emergency (now through May 15) and a plan for opening up America. As our workers file for unemployment in record numbers, many of our businesses are wondering when things will get back to normal. As I write this, protesters are lining up in Augusta, demanding a reopening of our economy. The desire to see our family and friends, recover our livelihoods, and find the stability and familiarity that we crave is understandable. 

I would like to introduce to our shared vocabulary “the next normal”. Why do I prefer this to “the new normal”? It reminds us that we have found new normals before, that we are a resilient species who have innovated and adjusted in the past, many, many times. While COVID-19 might call on us to adjust in more significant ways and more rapidly  than before- it is helpful to remember the next normals we have already created for our society and our economy. There was a time when people smoked in hospitals and when air travelers kept their shoes on while walking through security checkpoints, neither part of the next normal that was created. There was a time when book reports utilized large encyclopedias, and mail always had a stamp- neither part of our post-internet next normal. Likewise, seeing someone you love or a colleague you need to connect with stationed far away was considered impossible before FaceTime, Zoom, and Skype. Working remote was moving from a contractor norm to employer norm, and has already become the next normal of employers. 

So what does the next normal look like, and when will it arrive? Many articles have been written, offering a full spectrum of options. This one from Politico outlines 30+ potential societal changes, while this Forbes article offers 9 concrete changes to the business landscape. This New York Times article outlines the full year ahead in America. The truth about what the next normal looks like- and when it arrives- is far more complex than any of these articles can offer. We cannot focus on the exact time, or the exact shape of our future, but rather must focus our energy on the path to our next normal. This McKinsey & Company article offers the path as 5 stages, variant by industry and geography; where institutions might operate in more than one stage simultaneously. 

Resolve, Resilience, Return, Reimagination, and Reform. “Collectively, these five stages represent the imperative of our time: the battle against COVID-19 is one that leaders today must win if we are to find an economically and socially viable path to the next normal”, writes authors Sneader & Singhal. In short, (but seriously, read the article!) these 5 stages will need to be navigated by the leader, employer, and business. 

Ask:

  • Do you have the Resolve to move through the crisis induced paralysis determine the scale, pace and depth of action required?
  • Do you and your company’s balance sheet have the Resilience to recover quickly?
  • Are you ready to Return to operations, assuming that your operations don’t look like they did before? 
  • Have you begun to Reimagine- your workforce needs and environment, your supply or distribution channels, your customer’s behaviour and preferences? 
  • Are you anticipating the Reform of policies and regulations that history tells us follows events of this scale? 

So what do you do now, in this moment? Businesses and leaders that will navigate this upheaval successfully will follow a path like the one offered above, and won’t wait for the success of their peers to crowd the marketplace or determine the future. 

Actions you can take, this week: 

  • Get a plan-ahead team. It’s hard to plan ahead when you are responding to the current crisis. You alone can’t do it all- so get a team. If your operation is large enough to get a full team in-house, great! 
  • Connect with your peers. Review information from your industry specific communications, doing research on trends, new protocols, and what is around the corner. 
  • Lean on the LA Metro Chamber. We are here for you, and are able to help you connect to your peers, pull down or clarify information from associations and state offices. Just ask. 
  • Advocate, right now. Engage your elected officials, ensuring they know about impacts to your industry and business. Enlist us, making sure we know what your position is. 
  • Connect with your customers and key business relationships. They need to hear from you- share your support (not your disinfecting method, again). 
  • Connect with your employees. Communicate clearly and often, these tips might help. This includes folks you have temporarily laid off- and want to keep. 
  • Take a deeper dive into strategy. If you are up for it, this compendium of resources focuses on Strategic Thinking in a Long Term Crisis, curated by LA Metro’s own member Up With Community. 
  • Tell Us About Your Experience– take the short survey to help us find the best resources, content and ways to support you. 

Be on the lookout for Part 3 in our series, Local Context for a Local Economy. If you missed it, read Part 1: On the Ground Observations. As always, reach out directly to shanna@lametrochamber.com.

PART 1: On-the-Ground Observations: Real-time feedback from LA and beyond

This message is bit longer than usual, and certainly less flashy. Take 5 minutes, and read it fully.
Every day I am talking to businesses and organizations dealing with rapid change. Financial institutions implementing new programs quickly. Restaurants shifting to curbside and hiring delivery drivers. Retailers learning how to increase online sales. Managers learning new tech and supporting newly remote teams. Members and non-members alike, we are making and receiving calls to hear how things are going, and what we can do. We are looking for trends and patterns, planning ourselves how to adapt to meet your needs- now and in the months to come. 
What we see is that running a business, leading a team, executing your work goals- all seem infinitely harder right now. Processing new information every day, hour and minute has our brains in overdrive. Grieving the loss of planned events, milestones and normalcy are indicators of the collective trauma we are experiencing as leaders, teams, and individuals. Many of us are either experiencing a type of paralysis in action or patterns of thinking that are harmful to ourselves and to your long-term sustainability and success. 
What we know is that you are not alone in this crisis, or your response to it. This message to you is part of a series where I will share on-the-ground observations from businesses, NGO’s and regional peers. I will offer some of the best strategic thinking I have culled, and I will contribute my own locally contextualized thoughts. I will end the series with some of the key strategic questions we all should be asking ourselves if we want to stay relevant, solvent, and strong in the Next NormalClick here for on-the-ground observations of businesses across the greater LA region, and from our peers and counterparts across the state and US.

Spread the Love

Spread the Love – support our members!

Valentine’s Day has arrived and what better way to spread love in our community than to spread the love amongst our members! The LA Metro Chamber Spread the Love Giveaway is an opportunity for our members to give a little back to our members, support each other, and have a chance at winning big!

What you do: Pick one of our Spread the Love envelopes, pay the amount on it, and give us contact info for notification of winners. Feel great knowing you are supporting Chamber members! Claim your envelope at an upcoming event, at our office, or over the phone – and enter for a chance to win one of four packages, each with more than $1,000 worth of member items (gift cards, service coupons, and incredible stuff – all purchased from members)!

How it works: We enter your name the number of times that is on the envelope. So, if you purchase envelope #136, you will get 136 chances to win and will have paid $136. We will spend $4,000 at our members to get the best services, products and more to make into baskets for you to win!

We love purchasing from our members, and hope you do too! This is a great way for each of you to spread the love!

Are you ready to Spread the Love? Here’s what you do:

  1. Find us at an official Chamber event over the next month, swing by our office during business hours, or give us a call;
  2. Select an available envelope to purchase;
  3. Watch Facebook and your email for the drawing to discover if you’re a winner!

Have questions? Ready to purchase an envelope? Give us a call at 207-783-2249!

November Chamber Breakfast

November 14, 2019

Martindale Country Club, Auburn

This month, we’ll have Breakfast for Dinner along with our regular speaker program at Martindale Country Club from 4:30PM-7:00PM.

This month’s topic: Veteran Hiring for Employers

Many Americans outside of the military are unaware of the many skills and experiences that veterans acquire while in service. Misconceptions about what sort of skills one picks up while in military service abound, and some employers mistakenly believe that the skills that veterans have are not transferable outside of the military world.

In an effort to clear up some of those misconceptions, Leo and Tom will discuss the overarching military culture, bring light to the many intangible skills that employers can benefit from by hiring a veteran, and address the misconception that the skills that veterans have are not transferable outside of the military world. They will also share some veteran hiring success stories to help you understand that hiring a veteran is not only a good idea, it’s good business!

Don’t forget to bring business cards for door prizes and networking and $5 for 50/50 tickets!

More Information Here

October Chamber Breakfast

SOLD OUT- We are unable to take walk-ins at this breakfast! 

October 10, 2019

Martindale Country Club, Auburn

This month’s topic: MaineSpark’s Opportunity to Change Our Current Workforce Challenge

This month’s topic will focus on MaineSpark and it’s opportunity to change our current workforce challenge. The challenge facing all of Maine, as well as most industries today, is our workforce. Education and skills gaps, as well as limits to our workforce supply, are problems being faced all over our state. What are we doing to recognize the needs, fill gaps, and attract new people? This month’s speaker, Dana Connors, President, Maine State Chamber of Commerce, will explain how through MaineSpark, the efforts that are underway and currently working to address and help solve these issues.

Don’t forget to bring business cards for door prizes and networking and $5 for 50/50 tickets!

More Information Here

October Business After Hours

Join us on Thursday, October 17th for the LA Metro Chamber and Uplift LA’s Business After Hours hosted by Community Credit Union & Maine Credit Unions at the Good Shepherd Food Bank

Due to safety reasons, we require you to wear closed toe shoes.

Volunteer Time Slots Available:
4:00pm – 5:00pm
4:15pm – 5:15pm
4:30pm – 5:30pm
Please register to volunteer and choose your preferred time slot, only 12 spots available per time slot.

Registration to volunteer is required!

Click here for more info and registration!