Vienna Enterprise Affiliation doubles down on pandemic response | Enterprise

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“Keep knitting.”

This was the advice given by the chairman of the Vienna Business Association (VBA), Jeff Bollettino, to the members on February 12th. He urged them to focus consistently on their core goals in order to weather the public health crisis and thrive in the future.

“Despite the pandemic, VBA remains strong and alive and useful to our members and a force for good in the community,” said Bollettino during the annual State of the VBA Union and Board installation, which this year is “virtual” took place.

The pandemic has underscored the importance of small businesses, Bollettino said.

“Small businesses are where people gather,” he said. “They define the character of the community. Losing small businesses can affect what makes a community attractive. “

These small businesses had to change course drastically last year to survive the pandemic, Bollettino said. In addition to ensuring the safety of their customers and employees, companies invested in technology and adapted their work practices, business models and personnel systems to the new circumstances. This meant paying more for disinfectants and detergents, the availability of which was sometimes in doubt.

“Small business owners are at the forefront of mitigating the spread of the virus and keeping people safe,” said Bollettino.

The 245-strong VBA also had to overcome stress, constant change and pressure to innovate in order to survive the current crisis, said Bollettino. The organization suffered a major financial blow after the pandemic forced the cancellation of its major annual fundraiser, Oktoberfest, but benefited from attracting a new lead sponsor, the Navy Federal Credit Union, he said.

VBA officials carefully managed the association’s costs, showed members flexibility in paying dues and continued marketing and recruiting efforts. VBA added 57 new members last year despite the pandemic, said Executive Director Peggy James.

The association has published a shopping guide for holidays on its website, which provides a COVID-19 resource page, worked with the city government on webinars on the topic of “Path to Recovery” and launched the “Vienna VA Business News” group on Facebook. VBA also took several initiatives related to pandemics, including:

• Collaborated with member company Caffè Amouri to host Feeding Families 5K, which raised more than $ 10,000, supported restaurants in the area, and fed 368 families.

• Donations of water balls for the Vienna packages “4. July in a box ”.

• Co-hosting of the city’s three-hour “Halloween Wave Parade”, which instead of the traditional parade on Maple Avenue drove through all of Vienna.

• Awarded US $ 4,000 in grants from the VBA Foundation to charities that meet COVID-related needs.

• Cooperation with Vienna VA Foodies to support restaurants and to support people with unsafe food. The association presented the organizer of the food group, Lydia Russo, with the first VBA Corporate Responsibility Award.

Bollettino drew attention to the efforts of the individual VBA committees, which focus on everything from simple activities like membership, marketing and economic development to philosophical initiatives like social responsibility and sustainable “green” practices.

Several members of the Vienna City Council took part in the virtual event. Mayor Linda Colbert marveled at the creativity and adaptability of local businesses during the pandemic, saying the city is working hard to help these businesses survive. She also offered to target local businesses during her weekly video updates.

Vienna officials will take the business community into account when revising the city’s zone code, and the council is expected to vote in March to extend the amended rules for outdoor activities (such as restaurants) through September, the mayor said.

The city hired an economic development manager Natalie Monkou in late 2019 and recently commissioned a marketing study to help local businesses, Colbert said.

“Nobody is left out,” she said. “We want you to feel the love and the marketing.”

Councilor Steve Potter said he admired the camaraderie and willingness of business owners to help one another.

“You are an economic engine and you are deeply valued,” he said.

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