2020 ANNUAL REPORT

2020

Disruption Fueled Innovation

Introduction

Introduction

The coronavirus pandemic brought into focus the Flint & Genesee Chamber’s agility and operational resilience. Our ability to react quickly to many disruptions and opportunities positioned the organization as a critical resource for our stakeholders and others that were suffering from uncertainty and distress.

This year’s Annual Report, themed “2020 Disruption Fueled Innovation” communicates how the Chamber navigated the challenges of 2020; responded to the changing needs of our stakeholders and the broader community; became a digitally-focused organization; addressed our strategic challenges; and, put our learnings into practice helping the Chamber to continue to provide value during an unprecedented year.

We invite you to read on to learn more.

Message from the CEO

2020 was a shocking and ever-changing year that was marked by three interconnected issues: a global pandemic and an ensuing economic downturn; the call for action on systemic racism; and a highly divisive U.S. presidential election.

As the world navigated these issues, so did the Flint & Genesee Chamber. From the beginning we demonstrated agility, quickly reframing our thinking and therefore, our actions. I’m so proud of how our team came together to overcome what seemed, at times, like insurmountable challenges. We showed up with courage and commitment, and fully leveraged our strengths to support the local business community, the tourism industry and our afterschool and workforce readiness programs — all while adapting to the impacts of the pandemic and operating remotely.

Rapid Response

Early on, the Chamber conducted a Business Impact Survey, and made personal calls to every member to better understand how businesses were being impacted by the pandemic. The data provided clear indication of the significant and ongoing negative impact.

With timely and much-needed support from partners including the Consumers Energy Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Ruth Mott Foundation and Chase, the Chamber raised $570,000 for our Restart Flint & Genesee Small Business Recovery Program. Through this program, 144 small businesses received grants, 86 of which were minority-owned businesses.

Our team helped to facilitate grant programs from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and General Motors, and when you add up all of the grant programs that provided aid to businesses in Flint and Genesee County, our region fared very well:

  • 447 grants totaling over $3.3 million dollars were awarded.
  • Of that total, over $1.2 million dollars was granted to minority-owned businesses.

However, once the “Stay Home Stay Safe” executive order was issued to slow the spread of the pandemic, economic distress increased for many businesses. In response, the Chamber opened up access to our services – that are typically available to members only – to all businesses in Genesee County, at no cost. We quickly transitioned to offering online, on-demand business trainings to make information about grant programs and other opportunities accessible to larger audiences. We created a COVID-19 Resource Toolkit and served as a clearinghouse for resources, programming, advocacy and fast-breaking news and information. Later, we developed an online Restart Flint & Genesee Resource Center and a Small Business Help Desk.

As in-person learning at K-12 schools came to a halt, YouthQuest, our afterschool program, adapted to offer remote learning opportunities to support the day-school curriculum, and provided 450 families with school supplies. TeenQuest also shifted to a virtual format allowing pre-employment training to continue along with virtual graduations. Not only were teens able to participate in TeenQuest virtually, they were able to interview remotely with employers for summer jobs. Our staff also worked to adapt other Education & Training programs such as Career Edge, Flint Promise and Opportunity Youth to operate effectively within the confines of COVID-19.

Nationwide, the hospitality and tourism industry experienced major disruption. While the impact in Genesee County was not as drastic as some parts of the country, our region did not go unscathed.

Travel bans and restrictions on large gatherings impacted how we partnered with hotels and other stakeholders to promote the region and generate revenue for businesses and attractions. Our staff started thinking about how they could deliver value in different ways. They developed overnight packages for promotion online, including on the Pure Michigan website; converted the Certified Tourism Ambassador program to an online format to continue growing residents’ and hospitality workers’ knowledge about the region; launched the “Can’t Wait to See You” campaign to keep those in our social network connected and informed about what’s happening in Genesee County; promoted virtual experiences at attractions that were available across the county, and launched a new Explore Flint & Genesee destination website.

Strategic Challenges

Along parallel paths, we continued to address our strategic challenges, including the need for a countywide vision and plan for economic prosperity, calling for collaboration between the City of Flint, Genesee County and the Chamber. There has been great progress in this space resulting in a vision, comprehensive plan, a dashboard of indicators that will measure our success and a community scorecard.

We also started work on re-branding the Chamber to improve our target audiences’ understanding of who we are, what we offer and to whom. Also, as part of our branding work, we revised our governance structure to improve its efficiency and effectiveness.

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

By late summer, there were resounding calls from Americans to address systemic racism, in the midst of the public health and economic crisis, and it was clear that business should lead in this space.

The Chamber leadership team agreed and determined that we should look inwardly first. We reviewed all policies and practices to ensure that equity and inclusion was inherent. We examined our leadership team to make certain that it is diverse and reflects different perspectives and experiences. We implemented a diversity training series to better understand where we may have unconscious biases and what to do about them. We surveyed our employees to learn their sentiments on how the Chamber rates on diversity, equity and inclusion. We also began to examine diversity within our boards and facilitated discussion on systemic racism with our Regional Leadership Council, which is comprised of 40 individuals representing major businesses and donors. In addition, the Chamber is an active member of the Greater Flint Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Inequities convened by the Community Foundation of Greater Flint. This work also includes co-leading the Task Force’s Business Sub-Committee, where issues of importance to minority-owned businesses are addressed, such as relationship building with financial institutions, access to capital, income inequalities, training and mentoring opportunities. The committee convened a focus group of minority-owned businesses to speak to financial institutions and service-providers, we collected disparity data, we coordinated presentations with African American Advisory Committee to share grant and loan program information.

Not all of 2020 was difficult. By the time the year came to a close, we had learned a lot — about ourselves, our members, clients, and partners, and how to take what we learned to innovate. In other words, we used the disruptions to fuel innovation. Because of this, we are doing business better and creating value to meet or exceed the expectations of our stakeholders.

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Tim Herman, CEO
Tim Herman, CEO, Flint & Genesee Chamber of Commerce
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ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

Goal: Be a relentless force for facilitating economic growth in Genesee County

In 2020, economic development was defined less by the usual metrics of growth, expansion and job creation, and more so by the delivery of financial sustenance and a means of survival for many businesses in Flint & Genesee. A solid first quarter characterized by strong demand across many sectors and numerous requests for proposals (RFPs) had reversed course by mid-March, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the nation.

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STRENGTHENING BUSINESS

Goal: Build a strong business community that furthers the collective and individual success of businesses in Flint & Genesee

COVID-19 magnified the importance of place-based, small businesses in Flint & Genesee. Once the pandemic hit, people started thinking more actively about buying locally and supporting local establishments, more than ever. That’s because the local businesses impacted are owned and operated by friends, neighbors and family members.

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DEVELOPING TALENT

Goal: Support the success of our region’s growing workforce with K-12 career preparation programs and adult talent development

Twenty-first century learning requires technology and internet access. However, 2020 presented the challenge of remote learning and training on a scale never experienced. The COVID-19 pandemic forced a reckoning with the digital divide that the Chamber’s Education & Training division worked tirelessly to bridge.

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DESTINATION FLINT & GENESEE

Goal: Improve the perception of Flint & Genesee to increase tourism and drive business to the region

What’s a hospitality and tourism organization to do when travel nationwide is restricted, and tourism is all but halted?

The local travel market was essentially frozen for three-quarters of the year. Hotels and attractions, venues and allied industries (e.g., restaurants, caterers, event planners) were faced with closures, limitations on capacity and event cancellations. Additionally, travelers and event hosts experienced budget cuts, travel restrictions and heightened anxiety.

Outdoor dining in Fenton
Outdoor dining in Fenton
Outdoor dining in Fenton
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FORWARD TOGETHER

Moving our community forward requires collaboration and vision
Forward Together

In 2019, the Flint & Genesee Chamber launched Forward Together in partnership with the City of Flint and Genesee County to develop a countywide and community-owned vision for economic vitality. In 2020, we completed the data research, community input sessions, and months of planning. Then, we launched our 2040 Vision, which is: Genesee County will be a top-five community in Michigan based on jobs, talent, livability, and equity. Simultaneously, we launched an online dashboard that will display our progress toward the vision and an Action Agenda that details strategic initiatives to move the county forward. The Chamber is working to move the region toward our 2040 vision and will continue to work with our partners in this effort.

Forward Together - Indicators for Success We will measure our progress toward our vision across five indicators and our community scorecard

Thank you to our generous 2020 funders

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Michigan Strategic Fund

Michigan Department of Education 21st Learning Century Community Learning Centers

General Motors

Defense Logistics Agency

Ruth Mott Foundation

Burroughs Memorial Trust

CYMER

Stella & Frederick Loeb Charitable Trust

Martha Merkley Youth Charitable Trust

Community Foundation of Greater Flint

Greater Flint Educational Consortium (GFEC)

Kiwanis Club of Flint

JPMorgan Chase Foundation

Child Welfare Society

Consumers Energy

United Way of Genesee County

Walmart Facility #3726

Aspen Institute

Jennings Memorial Foundation

The Huntington National Bank

Stephanie Pasternack

The Whiting Foundation

Sunrise Rotary of Greater Flint

New Profit

Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

Michigan Economic Development Corporation

Michigan Strategic Fund

Michigan Department of Education 21st Learning Century Community Learning Centers

General Motors

Defense Logistics Agency

Ruth Mott Foundation

Burroughs Memorial Trust

CYMER

Stella & Frederick Loeb Charitable Trust

Martha Merkley Youth Charitable Trust

Community Foundation of Greater Flint

Greater Flint Educational Consortium (GFEC)

Kiwanis Club of Flint

JPMorgan Chase Foundation

Child Welfare Society

Consumers Energy

United Way of Genesee County

Walmart Facility #3726

Aspen Institute

Jennings Memorial Foundation

The Huntington National Bank

Stephanie Pasternack

The Whiting Foundation

Sunrise Rotary of Greater Flint

New Profit