Forum Admin

Bob Mckenna, President and CEO of The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, is working closely with local government, business and community partners to determine how they can best support the 757's local workforce and businesses during these unprecedented times. In addition to providing weekly COVID-19 updates on their website and via their newsletter, Bob also co-hosts the Peninsula Biz Buzz podcast series, where you'll see him addressing local issues and concerns with a panel of 757 experts. 

Check out a short video interview we conducted with Bob and leave a question for him below. 

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Emanuel Baker KINGCUTS
Thank you
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Andy Baan
I am looking forward to hearing Bob. The information he is putting out to his members is excellent. 
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Douglas L. Smith Doug Smith
Bob: Great to have you on the forum today. Your video which we posted earlier has been very well received and seen by more than 8,000 people already.  Welcome to our message board.
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Bob McKenna
Thanks for having me on, Doug. Looking forward to engaging.
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Susan Smigielski Acker
Can larger companies such as the shipyard and other local large companies establish a fund or sponsorship to help retail, home services business owners, museums etc. (ones closed right now) advertise with real local media such as Va Peninsula Magazine? This was done in Charlottesville.
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Bob McKenna
I think the real value of this forum is the 24/7 availability and the one-stop shop resource aspect of the platform.
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Bob McKenna
Susan, First of all, I owe you a call and email. I will get with you shortly, but the Chamber's executive Committee has been discussing similar ideas. We are looking into such possibilities.
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Douglas L. Smith Doug Smith
Bob: through both your work with the chamber and the topics you discuss on Peninsula Biz Buzz, you have been diving headfirst into our region’s business recovery efforts every single day. What are the recurring themes you are hearing from local business leaders, especially now that we are almost five weeks into social distancing?
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Andy Baan
Bob-Are you presenting, or is this a Q&A here please?
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Bob McKenna
Well, Doug, initially all the engagement I was receiving was about paying the bills while being shut down. I've been connecting a lot of members with local banks to get the PPP and EIDL loans. 
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Susan Smigielski Acker
Forum Admin wrote:

Bob Mckenna, President and CEO of The Virginia Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, is working closely with local government, business and community partners to determine how they can best support the 757's local workforce and businesses during these unprecedented times. In addition to providing weekly COVID-19 updates on their website and via their newsletter, Bob also co-hosts the Peninsula Biz Buzz podcast series, where you'll see him addressing local issues and concerns with a panel of 757 experts. 

Check out a short video interview we conducted with Bob and leave a question for him below. 

 
Bob McKenna wrote:
Susan, First of all, I owe you a call and email. I will get with you shortly, but the Chamber's executive Committee has been discussing similar ideas. We are looking into such possibilities.


You've been on my mind too. When can you talk?
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Bob McKenna
Now, what I'm hearing is "we gotta get things opened up again.....smartly, of course"
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Bob McKenna
There's as much, if not more, anxiety about the economic damage that increases every day.
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Douglas L. Smith Doug Smith
Andy - the format of this tool is a message board. We posted Bob's video earlier and announced that he would be answering questions at 1:00. I am asking questions to keep things flowing, but we encourage others to ask questions at well. Then anyone can come back at their convenience and see the thread 
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Bob McKenna


You've been on my mind too. When can you talk?


I'll call this afternoon, Susan. Email me a good number and time.
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Douglas L. Smith Doug Smith
Bob: What are a few of the ways the Virginia Peninsula Chamber has been assisting members and local business owners? What are you telling them to keep in mind?
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Bob McKenna
Andy Baan wrote:
Bob-Are you presenting, or is this a Q&A here please?
 

Hi Andy
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Bob McKenna
Bob: What are a few of the ways the Virginia Peninsula Chamber has been assisting members and local business owners? What are you telling them to keep in mind?


Doug, At this point in the response to the crisis, we're still focused on wading through all the information that is focused on helping businesses, whether it is from a financial (read loan/grant) perspective or legal or safety of employees or stress management - so much to consider. So, we're trying to simplify and disseminate the most important info. We do that thru the newsletter and thru the Biz Buzz podcasts.  
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Bob McKenna
We're now moving back into the typical Chamber program schedule to try to establish as much as possible a sense of normalcy and to try also to bring value thru networking, sharing of lessons learned and best practices etc
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Andy Baan
Our region has wanted to distinguish itself from others. Education seems to be one way to do that. Once this disease is passed, we could differentiate our region from others by the way that our children are educated. But we are not doing that. Instead of excellence in a different form, like classes meeting online instead of in person, public schools have retreated to office hours, reduced instruction time with students, and no grading per the VDOE. My sense is that we could do better. While it is not the most important issue in the moment, this moment will pass without us being able to show how well we handled the education of our children during the moment. 
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Bob McKenna
We're also working thru our membership list and beginning to accelerate individual contact with all of our members. Even using our ambassadors, that will take a long time. Our staff is very small.
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Steve Harrison Steve
One interesting perspective on this comes from Meghan Timlin of Virginia Beach Public Schools.  Her blog about what Educators are thinking in the wake of this pandemic can be found here: https://www.757recovery.com/blog/top-5-things-to-know-from-an-educators-point-of-view 
Andy Baan wrote:
Our region has wanted to distinguish itself from others. Education seems to be one way to do that. Once this disease is passed, we could differentiate our region from others by the way that our children are educated. But we are not doing that. Instead of excellence in a different form, like classes meeting online instead of in person, public schools have retreated to office hours, reduced instruction time with students, and no grading per the VDOE. My sense is that we could do better. While it is not the most important issue in the moment, this moment will pass without us being able to show how well we handled the education of our children during the moment. 
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Douglas L. Smith Doug Smith
Bob: For some business owners and leaders, it has been challenging to focus both on the health of their organization and the health and ongoing wellbeing of their labor force. I loved your comments in the video about health versus wealth and lives versus livelihood dynamics. Can you speak to this challenging compromise based on what you are hearing? And, along those lines, are you hearing some best practices in this regard?
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Bob McKenna
Andy Baan wrote:
Our region has wanted to distinguish itself from others. Education seems to be one way to do that. Once this disease is passed, we could differentiate our region from others by the way that our children are educated. But we are not doing that. Instead of excellence in a different form, like classes meeting online instead of in person, public schools have retreated to office hours, reduced instruction time with students, and no grading per the VDOE. My sense is that we could do better. While it is not the most important issue in the moment, this moment will pass without us being able to show how well we handled the education of our children during the moment. 


I hear you, Andy, but I will say that this Black Swan event caught everyone by surprise. Our school systems were making drastic improvements in the product they were offering and in the way they were trying to develop our future workforce. The Academies of Hampton were a perfect example. This event will hasten transformation in many ways, but looking back now is only productive in how it helps us with that transformation (through lessons learned).
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Bob McKenna
Bob: For some business owners and leaders, it has been challenging to focus both on the health of their organization and the health and ongoing wellbeing of their labor force. I loved your comments in the video about health versus wealth and lives versus livelihood dynamics. Can you speak to this challenging compromise based on what you are hearing? And, along those lines, are you hearing some best practices in this regard?


I'm thinking! This is what keeps me up at night - even though I tell myself that these questions have to be solved differently in different regions - and we can't fix everything. Not done answering, but trying to collect my thoughts
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jillianmgoodwin
Hi Bob! Thanks so much for being here today!

One thing that's been encouraging to me over the last few weeks is seeing businesses adapt their traditional business practices to find new revenue streams that directly support the growing needs of our community through this pandemic: manufacturers finding ways to make PPE or medical supplies, distilleries creating hand sanitizer, wholesale suppliers of paper goods allowing residential purchases. Do you have any examples you can share of Peninsula Chamber businesses who are innovating and providing goods and services to help others during this time? 
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Andy Baan
Thank you for your thoughts and work Bob.
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Amy Jordan ajordan
Bob to your point, I think the school systems that already had technology in place were able to adapt much more quickly to this new normal.  Using Hampton as an example, all 5th through 12 graders already had chrome books and were very engaged with digital learning. The schools seem to continue to adjust and implement new strategies.  Another consideration are parents that are working through this crisis so many children have to be independent learners.   I think the summer months will give school systems more time to adapt and implement new methods and training.  
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Bob McKenna
Doug, I think part of the answer to your question about finding balance is what led to the establishment of the survey and the forum. We just don't know enough yet about this virus and about how to stop the spread to come up with a simple solution. Different industries, different business models, different regions will all respond differently - and then will share their success stories and their failures. Hopefully they will share them here with us and then we can gather and disseminate/promulgate the information. I hate to hear people saying that everyone who advocates for re-opening doesn't care about the vulnerable. That couldn't be further from the truth.
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Bob McKenna
Bob to your point, I think the school systems that already had technology in place were able to adapt much more quickly to this new normal.  Using Hampton as an example, all 5th through 12 graders already had chrome books and were very engaged with digital learning. The schools seem to continue to adjust and implement new strategies.  Another consideration are parents that are working through this crisis so many children have to be independent learners.   I think the summer months will give school systems more time to adapt and implement new methods and training.  


Amy, Great answer. Thanks for that input. I was just sharing with Doug offline that my son's high school, Peninsula Catholic, has been doing Digital Learning Days once per month for five years now where the students stay home and do on-lined classes, They didn't miss a beat. On March 16th they started classes as if they had been doing it that way for a while - because they had.
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Amy Jordan ajordan
Bob,
I have enjoyed your daily newsletter which has been very informative.  What other ways is the Peninsula keeping the business community engaged and informed?   What suggestions do you have for businesses that are looking for more B2B relationships?
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Bob McKenna
Hi Bob! Thanks so much for being here today!

One thing that's been encouraging to me over the last few weeks is seeing businesses adapt their traditional business practices to find new revenue streams that directly support the growing needs of our community through this pandemic: manufacturers finding ways to make PPE or medical supplies, distilleries creating hand sanitizer, wholesale suppliers of paper goods allowing residential purchases. Do you have any examples you can share of Peninsula Chamber businesses who are innovating and providing goods and services to help others during this time? 


Jillian, Great point and you already gave all my best examples. The companies/ businesses that are most creative/flexible and nimble will have the easiest time surviving and then eventually thriving again. And that is certainly not a criticism of the others who are not flexible. Some business models are more easily transformed and adapted than others.
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Bob McKenna
Bob McKenna wrote:


Jillian, Great point and you already gave all my best examples. The companies/ businesses that are most creative/flexible and nimble will have the easiest time surviving and then eventually thriving again. And that is certainly not a criticism of the others who are not flexible. Some business models are more easily transformed and adapted than others.


I tell some of these business owners who are trying to adapt that the Chamber is in the same boat. I think our business model is going to change drastically, at least in the next year or so. I don't imagine that we will be putting 100 people in a conference room in the next six  months, but we have to move fast to find some ways to bring value - and make money
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Bob McKenna
Bob,
I have enjoyed your daily newsletter which has been very informative.  What other ways is the Peninsula keeping the business community engaged and informed?   What suggestions do you have for businesses that are looking for more B2B relationships?


Amy, we're trying to re-establish our program schedule in May by doing virtual coffee connections, a new event called Chamber Chat, designed to be a best practices and ask the chamber type exchange, Pink Bag lunches and a PELF. We're also trying to figure out how/when to complete our LEAD Peninsula class for 2020 and how to do it going forward - hopefully we'll be able to go back to business as usual in the not too distant future, but we're preparing for other contingencies also.
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Bob McKenna
Bob McKenna wrote:


Amy, we're trying to re-establish our program schedule in May by doing virtual coffee connections, a new event called Chamber Chat, designed to be a best practices and ask the chamber type exchange, Pink Bag lunches and a PELF. We're also trying to figure out how/when to complete our LEAD Peninsula class for 2020 and how to do it going forward - hopefully we'll be able to go back to business as usual in the not too distant future, but we're preparing for other contingencies also.


Perhaps we can also do a virtual Spotlight on the Peninsula event.
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Bob McKenna
Bob McKenna wrote:


Perhaps we can also do a virtual Spotlight on the Peninsula event.
Bob,
I have enjoyed your daily newsletter which has been very informative.  What other ways is the Peninsula keeping the business community engaged and informed?   What suggestions do you have for businesses that are looking for more B2B relationships?


Your ideas would be very welcome, Amy
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Bob McKenna
Bob McKenna wrote:


Amy, we're trying to re-establish our program schedule in May by doing virtual coffee connections, a new event called Chamber Chat, designed to be a best practices and ask the chamber type exchange, Pink Bag lunches and a PELF. We're also trying to figure out how/when to complete our LEAD Peninsula class for 2020 and how to do it going forward - hopefully we'll be able to go back to business as usual in the not too distant future, but we're preparing for other contingencies also.
Bob McKenna wrote:


Perhaps we can also do a virtual Spotlight on the Peninsula event.


By the way, PELF stands for Peninsula Executive Leadership Forum. It's a quarterly event and we partner with TNCC and it is sponsored by HII-NNS. We're going to try to do a couple of these in the short term.
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Amy Jordan ajordan
I love the idea about a virtual Spotlight on the Peninsula and the Chamber chats too.  I look forward to seeing the May calendar.  
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Andy Baan
Andy - the format of this tool is a message board. We posted Bob's video earlier and announced that he would be answering questions at 1:00. I am asking questions to keep things flowing, but we encourage others to ask questions at well. Then anyone can come back at their convenience and see the thread. 

Doug- Thank you for the forum itself, and for getting Bob to participate today!
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Douglas L. Smith Doug Smith
Bob: As easy as it is to get caught up on the more disruptive aspects of this crisis, there’s been a noteworthy degree of collaboration between the 757’s leaders to collect data and measure local sentiments from the business community on an ongoing basis. One example of this is the COVID-19 Business Leaders Survey. The link to the second survey is on the homepage of this forum and will be open through Monday Can you speak to the importance of this survey and why ongoing dialogue is so vital for the health of the region?
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Bob McKenna
Great question, Doug. I'm going to use it to first discuss the regional collaboration that is going on. One of the criticisms we used to hear about the 757 is that nobody wanted to work regionally. I'm here to tell you that in my two years in this job, I have found that to be a very false narrative. I have been lucky to be included in a group of regional leaders that meets once a month to exchange information and to find ways to work together to make our region successful. We have made great strides in that direction especially in the last year and a half. That served us well as we began responding to this crisis and the first result was the survey - which has informed and helped construct this forum. The survey (surveys now) are critical because they help leaders at many levels make informed decisions about how to respond to the crisis and how eventually to begin to recover. The data provided comes from real business leaders going through all the challenges associated with this crisis.
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Bob McKenna
Bob McKenna wrote:
Great question, Doug. I'm going to use it to first discuss the regional collaboration that is going on. One of the criticisms we used to hear about the 757 is that nobody wanted to work regionally. I'm here to tell you that in my two years in this job, I have found that to be a very false narrative. I have been lucky to be included in a group of regional leaders that meets once a month to exchange information and to find ways to work together to make our region successful. We have made great strides in that direction especially in the last year and a half. That served us well as we began responding to this crisis and the first result was the survey - which has informed and helped construct this forum. The survey (surveys now) are critical because they help leaders at many levels make informed decisions about how to respond to the crisis and how eventually to begin to recover. The data provided comes from real business leaders going through all the challenges associated with this crisis.


This forum is a virtual gathering place where we will tap into the vast amount of knowledge that is being accumulated on a daily basis. As I mentioned before, I think, this is uncharted territory, but this is where it is being charted to help us navigate our way home!
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Bob McKenna
Doug, Thanks to you and your team for giving me this opportunity to participate in the forum. I'm going to be a regular visitor to the forum and will be happy to participate any time.
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Douglas L. Smith Doug Smith
Bob: Working with you during this crisis has been a bright spot for me. You are a real leader and clearly the business community on the Peninsula values your guidance and perspective as I do. I really appreciate your taking some time to share your insights on the forum today. I hope you are able to enjoy the weekend coming up. Although it has gotten hard to tell the difference between a weekday and the weekend here lately  :-) 
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Bob McKenna
Doug: Right back at you, buddy. I value your partnership and friendship greatly. I certainly wish we could be working together on a more positive basis, but this is what we got! Let's get it done and help bring back the 757. Enjoy your weekend.
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