Chamber of Commerce discusses local effects of pandemic on past and future events
By BRITTANY FHOLER
The Copperas Cove City Council heard from the Copperas Cove Chamber of Commerce president regarding the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on tourism and businesses during their regular meeting held Tuesday evening.
Chamber President Alicia Menard called in to the meeting through Zoom to provide the update and started with the virus’ impact on tourism. Two major tourism events, the Jack Rabbit Run and the 40th annual Rabbit Fest, were cancelled as a result of COVID-19 and the Centers for Disease Control guidelines on social distancing.
The Chamber of Commerce and Visitors’ Bureau also closed its lobby to the public from April 2, 2020 through May 1, 2020.
Since the pandemic and shutdowns started, the organization has seen a large increase of approximately 55 percent in telecommunications and in online communications by 67 percent. The chamber’s website analytics have doubled for March and April compared to January and February.
Menard explained that she spoke with Parks and Recreation Director Jeff Stoddard about the Civic Center and other park facilities. She was told that there have been 17 cancellations of Civic Center reservations and one cancellation of the renting of the Ogletree Gap Pavilion. The majority of these rentals were for Copperas Cove Independent School District and the city.
“There will be a little loss of revenue from that from those tourism events that you’ll see I’m sure as [Stoddard] reports back to you,” Menard said.
Menard said she has also been in “constant contact” with the city’s hotels and motels as well as the Texas Hotel Lodging Association.
The overnight stays for Copperas Cove motels and hotels have decreased by 45 to 70 percent, Menard said.
“Specifically impacting the overnight stays and that reduction has been the Fort Hood restrictions that are in place, corporate travel restrictions, be it things like Walmart, H-E-B, those larger companies that would bring in corporate visitors for trainings and whatnot, and then cancelled events during spring break, as there was no travel during spring break- graduation, the tourism events and just overall personal travel,” Menard said. “The primary overnight stays that they’re seeing to date is from railroad construction, other construction and development, and relocation and housing issues, those possibly waiting for houses to be built or waiting on apartments.”
All of the hotels and motels in Copperas Cove have applied for funding assistance through various programs, and so far, only two have received funding through the PPP program (Paycheck Protection Program).
Regarding the Chamber of Commerce, Menard said the organizations surveyed its members about their operational status. Of those surveyed, 18 percent said they had to close completely; 21 percent remained open to the public with modification; and 61 percent remained open with minimal public interaction and several restrictions.
Approximately 65 to 70 percent of chamber members have applied for some of assistance, and approximately 30 percent of those members receiving some sort of funding, Menard added.
For the Phase I opening, about 91 percent of retail businesses are now open.
“We do have various retailers that have not opened their doors yet, several of those being the big-box retailers such as Ross and maurices,” Menard said.
Of the restaurants and food businesses, 86 percent are open. Several restaurants have chosen not to open dining rooms, sticking to takeout/curbside and/or delivery.
Other business industries include entertainment, which has 61 percent open; financial, which has 91 percent open, with some banks still keeping their lobbies closed; and personal services and care, which includes salons, clubs, churches, fitness, etc., reporting 67 percent open.
The Chamber and Visitors’ Bureau staff have provided links and resources for information from CDC guidelines to the Governor’s executive orders to SBA funding assistance program and IRS updates on scams and the U.S. Treasury CARES Act.
The Chamber has also opened marketing resources from website to online, offering free marketing for all local businesses.
“We definitely make sure to advocate for all small business here in Copperas Cove,” Menard said.
Menard said that the Chamber has received a lot of positivity from its members, both small and larger businesses.
“We’ve had very little complaints and just a lot of support and positive feedback about their experiences and then of course all the assistance and support that they have been provided, not just from our office but from the community in general, so kudos to all of us here in Copperas Cove,” Menard said. “Our businesses are definitely feeling the love, and we’re excited about that.”
The Chamber is in the process of relaunching its networking events with the option to attend virtually and in person, as well as continuing discussions about the status of future events, such as Military Affairs Committee dinners and the H-E-B Plus! Summer Run to Fun. The next board meeting will be May 22, where board members will discuss these items.