Jeansonne: ‘A season of improvising’ describes Chamber’s year

“Improvise, Adapt, Overcome” is an unofficial slogan of the United States Marine Corps. This line was made popular in the 1986 film Heartbreak Ridge starring Clint Eastwood as Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway.

While this film is now over thirty years old, Gunny Highway’s words, even today, accurately describe how the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce and the entire Northwest Louisiana business community are dealing with the challenges presented by this pandemic.

The effect of the pandemic has been far reaching and has brought on programs, actions and terms new to us all. “Social distancing,” drive through medical testing, the SBA Paycheck Protection Program and phrases such as: “my mask protects you, yours protects me” are among the many new terms and activities that we all learned in 2020.

Change, innovation, and adaptation have been the standard for the Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce this year.  The Chamber has partnered with many local, regional and state organizations to disseminate timely information on the many resources which have been made available.

Since March of 2020, your chamber has participated in and sponsored the follow activities and outreach programs:

Creating the Flatten the Curve SBC website to disseminate COVID-19 related information (CDC, etc.) and business disaster (PPP, EIDL, etc.) information; partnering with the Bossier (BCC) and Shreveport-Bossier African American Chambers of Commerce (SBAACC).

Creating a local restaurant guide that listed all restaurants that were open and providing curbside/drive thru. This was open to all restaurants, not just Chamber members; partnering with he BCC and SBAACC.

Creating the Cardshop318.com (http://www.cardshop318.com) website, a white label gift card website which provided local businesses access to a gift card purchases for their products and services. This was open to any business, not just Chamber members; partnering with the City of Shreveport.

Helped create Shreve.Biz (http://www.shreve.biz), a free one stop business hotline where businesses could get advice and counseling support as they tried to figure out their access to government support, partnering  with the City of Shreveport, SBAACC, CoHab and Southern University. 

Created OpenSafeSBC (http://opensafesbc.com) awareness campaign and website to encourage safe reopening of the economy, partnering with City of Shreveport, Caddo Parish, Bossier Parish, Bossier City, Caddo Sheriff, Bossier Sheriff, Caddo Schools, Bossier Schools, C100, NLEP, DDA, NLCOG, PORT, BRF, Convention and Tourism, GBDEF, RRVA, Willis Knighton, Christus, Oschner/LSU, VA, Community Foundation, Romph & Pou.

Worked with Wills Knighton Health System to produce a Guide for Safe Business Re-Opening, partnering with BCC and SBAACC. 

Held weekly webinars for businesses focused on providing real-time information on healthcare, business and recovery information.  Speakers included, Senator Bill Cassidy, Congressman Mike Johnson, LED Secretary Don Pierson, Mark Cooper, John Bel Edwards Chief of Staff, Jacques Lasseigne, Louisiana Workforce Commission, Chief Browning, Louisiana State Fire Marshall, Representative Thomas Pressly, Dr. Joseph Bocchini, LSU Infectious Disease Specialist, SBDC and SBA representatives, local bankers, CPAs and other subject matter experts; partnering with BCC and SBAACC.

Shifted the Shreveport Leadership Program online, by hosted a virtual Baton Rouge site visit for Shreveport Leadership including a capital visit hosted by Representative Pressly, discussions with Representatives Pressly, Horton, McCormick, Jenkins and Senator Peacock. The class also viewed and discussed committee hearings and floor debates broadcast online. Hosted topic specific days featuring presentations and virtual discussions with representatives of our healthcare and local governments. 

Co-hosted a virtual Northern Exposure day with North Louisiana Chambers where we heard from Governor Edwards and members of his Cabinet 

Hosted a press conference and webinar with Treasurer Schroder for the launch of the Main Street Recovery Program

During the height of the pandemic we Increased our newsletter distribution to twice a week to accommodate all the new information coming out, in addition to our legislative newsletter which was published during the regular and special sessions. 

All of this was done in addition to providing ongoing support to our area businesses as needed. Of note: the Chamber received no PPP funds and operated with a reduced staff during the pandemic.

In time, history will fully record the terrible toll this pandemic has brought on us all. The loss of life and the loss of livelihoods has been tremendous. We also have all suffered a great loss of general wellbeing.

But, history will also record the successes: the dedication of our health care works, the creativeness of our businesses, the generosity of our churches and charitable organizations and the courage of all of us to “mask up” and carry on.

 It is often said that “we are better together”!  I am certain this is true.

 Improvise and adapt! I am certain that we have. 

Overcome! I am certain at we will.

Lyle H. Jeansonne | 2020 Chairman, Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce