You don’t have to look far to see how the effects of COVID-19 are directly impacting our nation’s economy. In the midst of a health crisis, we’re also bombarded with the news of dollars lost on closed businesses, canceled events, and more. With this sobering news, it’s easy for communities to find themselves worrying about the world, rather than serving their neighbors. It’s easy to let the discouraging narrative and the social distance lead us to despair.
But this kind of despair-filled narrative is one that Business High Point, our Chamber of Commerce, decided to reject. Despite the hardships our state and city face, both medically and economically, Business High Point (BHP) decided to put their time and energy towards facing the crisis in the most productive and unifying way possible.
“Every time we got together as a team we’d share an inspiring story of something happening in our community,” Patrick Chapin, President and CEO of Business High Point says. “It was contagious.”
He notes even the smallest stories that their team celebrated, like children in High Point drawing uplifting messages in sidewalk chalk for neighborhood runners and walkers. It was from the positivity in these simple stories that the BHP team realized the kind of message High Point needed to hear from the Chamber.
“We knew what we needed was a community initiative, not just a chamber initiative,” Patrick says. After brainstorming the idea for a community initiative that would unify the city, the Chamber came up with a new rallying cry: “Community First. Community Always.”
BHP knew they wanted this message to be a visual representation across social media and the web, so they turned to Think Creative, BHP’s longtime brand agency and the current brand agency for High Point’s newest space, Congdon Yards.
“‘Community First. Community Always.’ is a rallying cry for everyone to come together and to highlight the good that’s happening in High Point,” says Alex Heirston of Think Creative. She explains that “Community First. Community Always.” is inspired by BHP’s organizational mission: helping their members reach their highest potential so the community can reach new heights.
“When COVID-19 struck, we knew everyone in High Point felt its impact,” Alex says. “We wanted to let people know that no matter what – their chamber is here for them.”
After the logo was developed, BHP decided they wanted to take the message of Community First. Community Always. to the streets. Literally.
“We wanted something tangible to go along with the digital community we were building,” says Sarah Tate, Senior Director of Events & Marketing at BHP.
With a drive to get the message out into the community, Sarah turned to Joan Campbell, sales manager and 20-year employee of Fast Signs in High Point.
“I was very glad they chose Fast Signs. The chamber believes in supporting local,” Joan says. “And they don’t just say it; they mean it.”
Joan said that she saw the project as a great fit for Fast Signs because of how much the company believes in and endorses the slogan for the initiative. It was Joan who suggested that BHP print the message on yard signs so that more people in the High Point community – businesses and residents alike – could band together to show their support.
Once the 200 signs were printed for the whole community, as well as 20 flags for local businesses, BHP invited residents and businesses to fill out a form online to reserve a sign for their yard. In the atrium of the Chamber building, the team worked hard to create a socially-distanced experience for people to come and pick up their signs.
“We were so excited to have people back in the building again!” Sarah says of the sign pick-up days.
“Those small moments when we were able to interact with our members and our community – it was a reminder that while we’re not communicating and getting together like we normally are, we are still part of this greater group,” Patrick adds. “We cannot re-connect those physical connections, but this is close in instilling the feeling that we are part of something bigger.”
Within a couple of weeks, all of the signs had left the Chamber building and started cropping up all over the city. The message is one that has started inspiring more moments of hope, unity, and civic pride.
BHP has already seen how this message is being put into action in the community. High Point businesses like Harriss & Covington Hosier and Culp Inc. have reached out to BHP on how they can quickly pivot their current production to produce reusable fabric face masks.
“We launched the creativity behind the CFCA initiative,” Patrick notes, “but what made it successful are the people who got involved.”
Yet the CFCA initiative is only the foundation of what BHP wants to be known for in the community of High Point in coming months. While they plan to continue to leverage CFCA as part of their messaging, the Chamber is also bringing new and more sophisticated programming to support local businesses in these coming months of uncertainty.
Already endeavors like the High Point Food Mob and the High Point Biz Mob have taken off on Facebook, and it’s given the BHP team ideas on how they can serve the City moving forward. Sarah and the rest of the BHP team worked hard to break down complex information on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act for High Point businesses. Sarah even shared her CARES Act infographic explanation on a national Chamber of Commerce Facebook page. The post received more than 300 shares, meaning the High Point Chamber is making an impact not just on our city, but on the nation.
Ultimately though, every endeavor the Chamber undertakes is driven by one motivational factor: the community.
“We’re a chamber of community as much as we are a chamber of commerce,” Patrick says. “We never once thought about excluding the community from our initiatives. I think the message of CFCA really resonates with the civic pride High Point feels. People were yearning for something positive.”
He notes how he has noticed a new intentionality in his High Point neighbors. Be it runners and walkers stopping to say hello on their daily jog, or a friendly word in the grocery store, he has already seen many simple ways High Pointers demonstrate kindness.
And the people who rallied together to drive the CFCA initiative all agree that High Point possesses a generosity of spirit that the crises of 2020 have only heightened.
“High Point is one of the most giving communities I’ve ever experienced,” Joan at Fast Signs says. “A lot of High Point was already stepping up, and I hope more people continue to do so. The more we work together the better we all are.”
Sarah points out that ironically, it was just a year ago the High Point Chamber of Commerce celebrated their 100th anniversary.
“Our chamber and our community have survived so much in the last century,” Sarah says. “We’ve walked the walk with our members. We’re still there with them through this, and we’re going to be there tomorrow.”
Because that’s what true communities do: they stand together in the most difficult circumstances. They see each other through to the other side by putting the needs of others before their own. Community First. Community Always.
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To learn more about “Community First. Community Always.” watch BHP’s video online.
Feature Image Courtesy of Business High Point