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BUSINESS

DOWD: Mattoon and Charleston chambers continue to work together for community

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The proposed merger of the Mattoon and Charleston area chambers of commerce was voted down by our membership. The members do not think this is the time for the two organizations to merge and become one entity.

The most important thing to remember is even though we will not merge, we will continue to collaborate on many things that will benefit both organizations, and Coles County as a whole.

The chambers have done a great job over the last five-plus years working together for the betterment of their membership, Mattoon and Charleston, and the entire region.

Our combined Business After Hours have been well received and provide a great opportunity for both organizations' members to network, connect one-on-one as potential clients and learn from each other.

Every year, our biggest After Hours is a combined event held at KC Summers in Mattoon. We usually have 200 to 300 members attend the event. This year the event will be held Aug. 19 and it is always a great opportunity for both chamber memberships to mingle, discuss what services they provide and how they can collaborate to make their businesses successful.

The chambers have also shared resources and worked together to help many of their member businesses navigate the challenges of the pandemic. The Mattoon and Charleston chambers worked closely with Coles Together, the cities of Mattoon and Charleston, Coles County Regional Planning, local banks, and local accounting firms to obtain much needed funding to help our respective memberships survive the lack of business during the pandemic.

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Nearly 100 counties in Illinois were able to receive funding through the Downstate Stabilization Grant program. Coles County received the second-largest amount of grants of any county of Illinois for local businesses even though Coles County is only the 27th largest county in the state. The collaboration of the chambers and organizations was critical for our community business to receive over $100,000 in funds ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.

Both chambers also worked with member businesses and other organizations to help them obtain Business Interruption Grants and Payroll Protection Program forgivable loans. Another $100,000 was awarded to Coles County Businesses for the BIG Grants. In total, 349 Coles County businesses received a total of over $25 million in the PPP Program.

Since the pandemic restrictions have been lifted, both chambers will be able to hold our very popular combined Community Update Breakfasts. We usually have over 300 members attend the breakfast, which is another great networking opportunity for the chambers to collaborate and work together. Our next event is tentatively scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 4.

The chambers have worked closely on making sure the memberships of both organizations are able to meet all the legislative requirements handed down by the state and federal governments. Nearly 1,000 member employees were able to complete the required sexual harassment training last year, keeping our member organizations safely in compliance with the new law. Collaboration is and will continue to be one of the major goals of both chambers.

The Mattoon Arts Council has a new feature artist display area in the north entrance corridor at the Cross County Mall.


 

Ed Dowd is the executive director of the Mattoon Chamber of Commerce.

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