The Green Valley/Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce is exploring and investing in new ways to support local businesses, particularly with marketing.

Randy Graf

Randy Graf is CEO and president of the Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce.

A $35,000 COVID-19 Response Grant from the governor's office will help to expand their GVS Leads business retention and expansion program launched in February.

The program is focused on helping businesses survive through economic hardships and offers business owners business assessments, access to subject matter experts, webinars and assistance finding resources.

Chamber President Randy Graf said the grant solidifies the program moving forward.

“This program is tailored to businesses and industries, chamber members but not solely chamber members, who are being impacted most like hospitals, restaurants, nonprofits — those who’ve taken a bigger brunt of the storm,” he said. “It was pretty broad what the funds could be used for, but it was trying to support business as far as COVID relief. With our GVS leads program in place, we tied it in closely to that.”

The state made $1 million available for the Chamber of Commerce COVID-19 Response Grant Program and awarded 30 chambers across the state grants of up to $50,000.

Funding for the grant program came from the state’s Crisis Contingency and Safety Net Fund, established in March.

To earn the grant, the chamber had to submit a plan proposal in November. Recipients were named Monday.

Graf said when they were creating the GVS Leads Program over a year ago they partnered with the Town of Sahuarita to survey 60 local businesses to determine what their biggest needs were.

“It was to get a temperature of the business community and at that time things were going well for most, the economy was humming along,” he said. “One thing we realized is that businesses don’t always have all the answers and they may not be experts in marketing or PR. We needed to be a resource and so we developed the GVS Leads program.”

The pandemic caused shut downs in the state just about a month after the program started and the Chamber decided to switch gears a little.

“We went from business expansion to just business survival and began contacting members asking what we can we do to help, making sure they knew about the Paycheck Protection Program and other programs,” he said. “Within the GVS Leads program we have subject matter experts and if a member business is having a problem they can contact us and we’ll hook them up with the right subject matter expert to try to help with issues and if that doesn’t work were looking for other resources for them.”

GVS Leads has subject matter experts on topics like legal help, mental health, finance, business and marketing. 

The program has also hosted various webinars for the business community including coping with COVID-19, e-commerce ideas and guidance on how businesses can approach COVID-19 expectations.

The COVID-19 Response Grant will further support the GVS Leads program.

Along with GVS Leads, Graf said they are trying to fill the gap of digital marketing for business owners in the area who might not have the experience or time. The chamber is working on their website to add more marketing tools for members.

Graf said they’ve just rolled out “marketing landing pages,” or mini websites for their member businesses that offer much more than just a business name and address. Through this, members are able to have a specialized landing page made for them. 

“Many of our members and business owners are busy trying to run the day to day operations and they don’t always have time to look at landing pages, modify and update them,” he said. “Through this company we’re using, they can look and changes are made with an assistant provided to members.”

Graf said they are trying to offer a full marketing program for their members and will be introducing new marketing tools early next year.

“This is heady stuff, new stuff for us, leading edge-type marketing,” he said. 

To view their member directory and landing pages visit www.greenvalleysahuarita.com/member-directory.

For information on the GVS Leads program, contact Coordinator Chelsey Morningstar at Chelsey@GreenValleySahuarita.com or 520-600-2108. 

Jamie Verwys | 520-547-9728 

Reporter

Reporter Jamie Verwys grew up in Sahuarita and graduated from the high school in 2006. She lives in Tucson and graduated from the University of Arizona with a bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2018.