Local support: Chamber president talks virtual meetings, business recovery


Brad Klopfenstein had served in his new role as president of the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce for about a month when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. But he is moving full-speed ahead in helping businesses in need during the stay-at-home order.

When the governor’s order was issued in mid-March, Klopfenstein said the chamber began to offer a weekly series of community meetings via Zoom.

“Ever since they went to the stay-at-home order, just as a chamber to try to give people an opportunity to talk about what’s going on, we’ve tried to do weekly series of community meetings with elected officials or experts on topics and have them share expertise with our members and really anybody who wants to tune in,” Klopfenstein said.

CIG COVER 0505 chamber3
Brad Klopfenstein encourages residents to support local businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Submitted photo)

Past guests have included Lawrence Mayor Steve Collier, State Sen. Jim Merritt and members of an accounting firm discussing a payroll replacement program. 

“It’s just an opportunity to keep the community updated and share thoughts or pearls of wisdom, whatever is going on,” Klopfenstein said. “This is new for all of us, so the more we can communicate and share ideas and, if nothing else, let everybody know we are in this with them, the better off we are going to be.”

The Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Facebook page posts updated information about the meetings and provides a link for anyone who wants to join in. An email is sent to all chamber members announcing who the speaker is and provides log-in information.

“It’s pretty open,” Klopfenstein said. “It’s our plan to keep it open until we have a reason not to do so.”

Usually, 20 to 30 people join the meetings.

“It’s been a pretty good mix of business leaders and other stakeholders in the community, and a lot of good questions that have gone with it,” Klopfenstein said. “The public can ask questions. We’ve given the speaker 15 or 20 minutes to share what’s on their mind, things they’re working on or are aware of and then open it up to questions from anybody in the group. It has flowed nicely.”

Klopfenstein views the chamber’s role as a tireleless promoter and advocate of local businesses. The organization frequently reaches out to members to see what information is needed and what it can share that business owners may not be aware of regarding loan and grant programs.

“I think our role is going to be more as a cheerleader and to try to bring as much focus as we can into Lawrence and all the businesses we still have here,” Klopfenstein said. “It sounds like (as of April 15) Lawrence hasn’t lost any (businesses) yet, and most communities can’t say that. We are hoping most of our businesses come back intact. They might be a little wounded, but as long as they’re intact, we have a good core of retail and restaurants that hopefully people will be able to come back and spend a lot of money with them once they are able to get outside.”

For more, visit greaterlawrencechamber.org.

CIG COVER 0505 chamber2
Brad Klopfenstein has been the Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce President since February. (Photo by Anna Skinner)

When the City of Lawrence reopens

Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce President Brad Klopfenstein said he expects the City of Lawrence to have a slow rollout when the state’s economoy reopens.

“Certainly, with restaurants, there will be a little more distancing in the dining rooms with a lot more room between tables,” Klopfenstein said. “They will encourage people to do more seating outside. I know they are taking a hard look at Fourth of July right now and probably will know in the next couple of weeks if the Fourth of July celebration will go on. Even if (the state) opens back up in May, it’s going to be different from what it was before.”