Chamber chief says finding workers remains a challenge

Area businesses try to cash in

ASHEBORO – Area businesses have endured countless challenges during the pandemic, but Linda Brown with the Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce said there are signs of brighter days.

“Our organization has done OK. We’ve held our own,” said Brown, the group’s president. “We’re planning on holding our regular events this fall.”

Brown said businesses in the region are doing their best under difficult circumstances to make things click.

She was on a recent tour of industries with other area leaders and she noted that some of the companies had to turn down sales opportunities because they can’t meet demand. That’s largely due to a reduced workforce.

“It’s hard to find employees in every sector,” Brown said, something she said has been the theme stemming from many of the Chamber’s members. “Right now, I think that’s the main (issue).”

That even stems to the Chamber. The group has an opening for a membership and events coordinator.

As of last week, that opening had enticed just seven applicants compared to about 200 who applied the last time that job was open. “It’s a lot different atmosphere,” Brown said.

Brown said one of the primary messages from the Chamber is to “remember that local businesses are short of staff, so be kind” to the workers who are out there.

Despite the trouble spots, numbers provided through the Chamber show certain positives. Brown said retail spending in Randolph County was up 7.1 percent in 2020 compared to 2019.

She said the reason for that increase might be based on federal stimulus money provided to many residents along with panic buying early in the pandemic.

The Asheboro/Randolph Chamber of Commerce lost 111 members from last year, while picking up 45. Regarding the reduction, Brown identified 40 of those coming because of closed businesses and another 35 related to financial concerns (though some might rejoin). Another dozen of the losses came because of mergers and others resulted from Randolph County locations closing.

Yet the NC Rural Center reported that there were 62.5 percent more business startups in Randolph County compared to the previous year, something Brown identified as an encouraging trend.

“A lot of people are trying to find different ways to make a living,” she said.

The local Chamber held a virtual annual meeting in January, but largely resumed many of its normal activities by April. Brown said plenty of autumn events are on the docket.

She said an Oct. 5 gathering to recognize elected officials for their contributions as part of a thank-you session should attract about 100 honorees. The Chamber’s annual retreat is set for Oct. 21-23 at Wrightsville Beach.

Brown, who’s a member of the board for the Asheboro Regional Airport, said there are signs of growth coming for the airport. She said a new hanger will be built to help accommodate about 15 on a waiting list for spots.

“We’re really poised to take off,” she said.

 

By Bob Sutton

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