Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce staff personally reached out to 127 local businesses to help them apply for business interruption grants due to COVID-19. The chamber also gave $20,000 from the lodging tax fund back to local hotels in April to help them get through what has been a difficult year for small businesses.
Crystal Johnson, president and CEO of the Batesville Area Chamber of Commerce spoke to the Batesville chapter of Rotary Club Monday to share ways chamber staff helped tourism, economic development and education in the area.
“Our hospitality industry is struggling, and these were a few ways we could help. Sometimes for a struggling, small business it’s hard to take a breath and look up,” Johnson said.
Staff provided resources and offered technical assistance in applying for the grants which were part of CARES Act funding
This past week and weekend, as part of the chamber’s Check Inn to Grinchmas campaign, 50 overnight hotel stays were booked.
“It’s not a staggering number, but every little bit helps,” Johnson said.
This weekend will be An Old Fashioned Christmas where Main Street Batesville hopes to draw people to downtown shops.
Without a tourism director since May, Johnson said the chamber staff has brought forward their talents as a team, rather than let all that responsibility be placed on one individual.
The chamber also provided $5,000 in technical grants for the Batesville Community School and Charter authorization project, and has helped apply for 12 grants to expand broadband internet capabilities throughout the county.
Johnson said earlier this year, the Southside School District had an assembly line of staff preparing printed homework packets to deliver to students who didn’t have access to the internet at home. Johnson said tackling something as large as expanding broadband internet felt like almost too big of a project, but the chamber knew the issue impacts everyone. She said the chamber should know by the first part of next year how many of the grants are awarded.
Drawing big employers to a rural community in a rural state is competitive.
“The word is out that Batesville is a great place to work and live,” Johnson said.