Program to help business ‘Thrive’

Chamber launches initiative to aid in local economic recovery

The Blair County Chamber of Commerce will kickoff a new program today designed to encourage Blair County residents to help local businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic and its daunting economic consequences.

“Buy Here. Thrive Here.” is the next phase of the chamber’s “Buy Here. Live Here.” initiative, which was created six years ago to encourage businesses and consumers to buy local products and services before spending money outside the region or on non-local websites.

“Buy Here. Live Here.” was introduced in 2013 after a survey of business spending revealed that Blair County businesses were spending $2.7 million a day on products and services from outside Blair County.

“We set about the task of changing a mindset (with Buy Here. Live Here.). We wanted people in our community to see what the advantages were when more of our dollars stayed here. We wanted them to understand how important it was to give priority consideration to the businesses that were funding the quality of life, things like the symphony, the arts and the Little League teams,” said chamber President/CEO Joe Hurd.

The Buy Here. Live Here. effort went on official hiatus near the end of 2018.

Chamber officials are excited about the new program.

“It’s designed to be Buy Here. Live Here. on steroids. We don’t have the luxury of a long-term game plan,” said board chairman Darin Tornatore. “Businesses need help now, and the chamber feels a great deal of responsibility to lead the charge in advocating for greater understanding of who’s hurting the most and what we need to do to make a positive difference for them.”

Like its predecessor, Buy Here. Thrive Here. will emphasize to businesses and consumers the importance of making purchasing decisions with local companies in mind, Tornatore said.

“The biggest difference between the two programs is the degree of urgency. Our local businesses right now need immediate help just to stay afloat,” he said. “They need our entire community to direct their purchasing decisions, when at all possible, to those businesses in our county.”

Matt Stuckey, a former chamber board chair, is leading the effort to raise funds to support a multimedia campaign to raise awareness and to make sure that no one falls through the cracks.

“We’re very fortunate that our media appreciates the gravity of the current situation. When we rolled out Buy Here. Live Here., we had solid participation from every media outlet. I have no reason to believe that they won’t step forward again,” Hurd said.

It will also be important for the business community to get behind Buy Here. Thrive Here.

“We recognize that it’s harder than ever to commit funding to even a worthy cause when your own business is struggling,” Tornatore said. “We’re not looking to raise an incredible amount of money. We’re doing our best to raise only the amount we need to make the impact that needs to be made.”

No end date for the Buy Here. Thrive Here. initiative has been identified. Anyone interested in supporting the effort should contact the chamber at 943-8151.

Meanwhile, Hurd said the chamber is also working in tandem with the PA 30-Day Fund, which will be directing assistance to small businesses who may only need a few thousand dollars to get back on their feet. Jeff Bartos, who is spearheading the PA 30-Day Fund, will be the speaker at the chamber’s Breakfast Club on June 11, which will be held virtually.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

By the numbers:

New/total COVID-19 county cases for Saturday and Sunday: Blair 1/50 (1 death); Bedford 0/39 (2 deaths); Cambria 0/57 (2 deaths); Centre 2/153 (7 deaths, including 1 new death); Clearfield 1/39; Huntingdon 2/230 (includes SCI Huntingdon cases);

Area new/total cases: 6/568

New/total cases statewide: 1,191/71,926 (67 percent recovered), 620 positive serology tests

New/total deaths statewide: 91/5,555, 7.7 percent of positive cases

New/total negative tests in area counties: 1,135/11,570

New/total tests in area (new positives plus new negatives): 449/12,138, 2.3 percent of population in Blair; 2 percent of population in area

New/total negative tests statewide: 16,141/383,111

New/total tests statewide: 17,332/455,037; 3.5 percent of population

Infection rate (percent of population with confirmed positives) region/state: 0.09 percent/0.56 percent

Positivity rate (percent of total tests that are positive) for region: new cases, 0.58 percent/cumulative cases, 4.6 percent

Positivity rate for state: new cases, 6.4 percent/cumulative cases, 15.8 percent


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