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Thursday night time’s annual assembly of the Higher Mount Ethereal Chamber of Commerce was a bit totally different than regular.

As an alternative of the packed eating room at Cross Creek Nation Membership, together with a sequence of recognitions and audio system, this 12 months’s occasion was significantly shorter, streamed on-line through the chamber’s YouTube channel due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The message from those that spoke was additionally fairly totally different. Once more, due to the pandemic.

Every of the three audio system — chamber government Randy Collins, outgoing board chair James Etringer, and incoming board chair Chris Lumsden — spoke of how difficult 2020 was, and the way the chamber had been pressured to be versatile, to adapt to the radically altering enterprise and social setting created by the pandemic.

Etringer maybe finest summed up how 2020 was when he referenced final 12 months’s annual assembly, and his ideas at the moment when his remarks have been from the angle of an incoming board president.

“Trying again ultimately 12 months’s annual assembly … we got here off a really profitable 12 months. … Our membership was at an all-time excessive, each occasion we held that 12 months was profitable. … My ideas have been … let’s maintain this momentum going, let’s maintain the practice on the tracks, don’t mess it up.

“Little did we all know what was to come back for 2020.”

COVID-19, already spreading quietly in numerous components of the world, was declared a pandemic by the World Well being Group lower than a month after the chamber’s 2020 assembly, and earlier than March was over, North Carolina — in addition to a lot of the remainder of the nation — was in a lockdown with extreme limits on actions exterior of properties.

Whereas a lot of these limits have been eased considerably all year long, the chamber ended up canceling most of its scheduled occasions in 2020, together with the Autumn Leaves Competition.

“This can be a main occasion for our neighborhood, a serious occasion of the chamber. …The cancellation for that pageant was onerous. … It reaches deep into our neighborhood,” Etinger mentioned. Not solely is the pageant a serious tourism and cultural gathering, he mentioned it’s usually the biggest fundraising alternative for most of the native charitable organizations which arrange vendor cubicles there.

“We hope to host that occasion once more in 2021 … however time will inform,” he mentioned.

The 12 months was not fully misplaced, nonetheless. The outgoing president reminded these watching that the chamber was in a position to maintain a golf match, a digital job truthful, a fundraising hen stew (promoting greater than 400 quarts) and a web-based public sale. This was together with common Zoom conferences that gave chamber members an opportunity to the touch base with each other in addition to hear from native authorities leaders.

“2020 was a uniquely difficult 12 months, one which produced unprecedented disruption for many companies right here in Surry County and throughout the globe,” mentioned incoming board chair Chris Lumsden, who serves as president and CEO of Northern Regional Hospital. He expressed hope that with correct precautions, the widespread acceptance of the COVID-19 vaccine, “and some answered prayers, 2021 shall be higher for us.”

Whereas many companies have discovered themselves struggling to outlive, Lumsden inspired the neighborhood to stay a part of the chamber and to depend on it as a useful resource.

“The chamber is extra related to our companies and neighborhood than ever earlier than,” he mentioned. Lumsden mentioned many of us taken the chamber without any consideration throughout good instances, when exterior assist could not appear as vital for a enterprise’ success, however throughout lean instances the chamber’s skill to assist drive the enterprise neighborhood turns into evident.

“Our chamber is one glorious supply of assist throughout good and dangerous instances,” he reminded these watching, including that it solely is smart for space companies to assist and work with the chamber, for considerably egocentric causes if for no different function. “What’s good for our chamber is sweet for our neighborhood. And what’s good for our neighborhood is sweet 4 our and your corporation.”

Lumsden mentioned throughout the pandemic, and shifting ahead, the chamber has needed to turn into extra nimble, extra artistic, to regulate to the altering enterprise local weather. That’s meant, and can proceed to imply, continually reevaluating actions it carries out, what occasions may be held safely, and to search for modern methods sponsors, chamber members and occasion members may be a part of chamber actions.

Randy Collins, chamber president and CEO, began the night time’s assembly, with feedback echoed by the opposite audio system, however he additionally had a phrase of optimism and encouragement for these watching.

“2020, as you understand, was a difficult 12 months for all of us, however I do know 2021 brings us hope for higher instances and prosperity for your corporation.”

He mentioned, irrespective of the circumstances, the chamber would proceed to work to search out methods to meet its mission, which is to advance, promote, and encourage “profitable enterprise progress for our members.”

After the three males spoke, the annual Citizen of the Yr award was president to native businessman and former Mount Ethereal main, David Rowe. A full account of that presentation is obtainable within the Friday, Feb. 13 version of The Mount Ethereal Information (Rowe named Citizen of Yr) or on-line at

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