Our Chamber of Commerce has been serving the business community of Superior, Douglas County and the greater Twin Ports area since we were established in 1883. As we’ve written before, Chamber organizations are often likened to the air traffic controllers of a community. We wear many hats, adjusting to the ever-changing needs of the communities we serve. We do the work that many people think “just happens” in a community and have the honor of representing the business community and, specifically our membership every day.

Likewise, the Chamber, our Chamber, has also changed over the years. The Superior-Douglas County Area Chamber of Commerce today represents three individual organizations: The Chamber, Travel Superior and The Chamber Foundation. They focus on business, tourism and education. How we function tomorrow will continue to evolve with the ever-changing needs of our community and those who invest in it.

Over a year ago, communities all over the world were shaken with the sudden onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the U.S., we saw unrest, a lack in trust and rising tensions. Some communities were affected more than others, while the impact on commerce varied greatly depending on industry. The hardest-hit industries were the tourism, travel and hospitality sectors.

Our business communities, health systems and schools all especially felt the immediate impacts and challenges. While some businesses were struggling to keep doors open, another organization in the same industry may have seen overly positive results. As we were immersed into what living during a pandemic looked like, many were scared to do anything. Life, comfort and security were all put on hold.

On a local level, our business community and citizens faced unique impacts as they navigated public health guidance and regulations from federal agencies as well as two different state and local authorities. Our Chamber realized the need for clear and concise information. We opened our communications up to nonmember organizations, and we offered a needed resource by streamlining guidance, financial assistance and information. We never faltered in our advocacy for the tourism and business communities. We had regular and open communication with hundreds of organizations throughout the past year as well as our local, state and federal leadership.

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Now for the fun part!

We are very aware that we aren’t through the pandemic yet, but we are starting to see the sun rise on the horizon! The Superior, Douglas County and Twin Ports region is doing much better than many areas. Tourism is a major economic driver throughout the region and is causing a bounceback faster than much of the country.

In addition, we are well-positioned to welcome and safely host eager visitors planning to travel before the end of the year. Superior seems to be going through a renaissance of reimagining and redevelopment.

Our corner of the Midwest is breaking out of the stereotypes we have been placed in for decades, and you can almost feel the change and positive energy. We need to stay friendly and welcoming to the new business opportunities knocking on our door.

We are seeing new businesses of all types open. Entrepreneurship and expansion opportunities are outpacing the spaces we have to meet demand. We have seen vibrant and creative businesses and developments during a time that was dark for many. There are more new projects on the horizon; in addition, many of our major projects didn’t slow down. This growth and development is laying the foundation and infrastructure to a better future.

We have all heard the terms “back to normal” or “new normal.” No matter what we call life after the pandemic, we can be sure that it will not be the same as life pre-pandemic. The workforce will continue to be the No. 1 challenge for many of our employers, our employment attraction strategies will need to be creative and flexible. Teleworking and virtual meetings are here to stay.

Online commerce is a needed component for many industries going forward. There is no doubt that consumer, employee, employer and social behavior has changed indefinitely. But one thing is certain: supporting our local economy, businesses and nonprofits has never been more important. Our citizens stepped up to the plate and took care of each other throughout the pandemic thus far. The impact on quality of life and health from the community organizations around us has been clarified during the pandemic.

We are moving forward, but we must continue to be here for our neighbors.

Taylor Pedersen is president and CEO of the Superior-Douglas County Area Chamber of Commerce and Travel Superior.