Chamber rallying to help local businesses survive COVID-19 challenges

Manufacturing surges as hospitality and food service most impacted by virus

"Be safe, see you soon" signage at the Mitchell Perkins location greets those driving on Burr Street. Perkins has closed its dine-in services since early April. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Nearly every local business has been affected by COVID-19, but the Mitchell Chamber of Commerce is working to minimize the negative impacts firms are facing due to the virus.

From organizing events to encourage local shopping, to hosting roundtable discussions with a variety of industries and businesses aimed at providing helpful resources, the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce and its organizational branches have been responding to the coronavirus with the goal of keeping the community moving forward.

“We developed an idea to have teleconference calls with businesses that have similarities to share the best practices and ways to take on the challenges to try and get through this,” Vaux said. “I found it interesting to see local competitors sharing ideas with one another to get through this all, and it was really encouraging to see that type of togetherness and community.”

The discussions consisted of roughly 10 different groups of businesses, which were divided into categories by their respective industry. For example, one teleconference group included manufacturing businesses, such as Twin City Fan, Trail King, Mitchell Manufacturing and AKG. Among the points of discussion included sharing methods to improve workplace cleanliness and implement new sales, along with marketing strategies amid the virus.

Since the virus swept across the country in early March, the federal and state government has offered programs and resources to help small businesses stay afloat, like the Small Business Administration disaster loan assistance and Gov. Krsiti Noem’s small business relief fund.


“It’s crazy because right now most of our manufacturing companies in the city have been experiencing one of the best years they have ever had,” Vaux said. “They still haven’t been slowing down much due to the virus, because most of the companies manufacture and produce essential products and goods. In fact, many are still hiring.”

While the manufacturing sector has been maintaining business, Vaux said the restaurant, small business, retail and hospitality sectors have been hurt badly. Those businesses have been affected by Mitchell’s city shutdown that’s been in place for nearly a month, which forced restaurants, bars and cafes to stop in-store service, and implement takeout and curbside services.

“Some small businesses run on pretty tight profit margins, so we’re trying to do everything we can to guide them to resources that are available for them due to the virus,” Vaux said.

With the number of challenges that many local restaurants and bars are facing, the Chamber of Commerce and Mitchell Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) have been focusing their efforts on promoting those specific types of businesses in hopes to give them a better chance of picking up sales.

One of the creations that resulted from the Chamber of Commerce and CVB’s ideas to boost business was the Takeout Takeover, which was a two-day event that asked for participants to share a photo of themselves purchasing or eating a takeout meal, beverage or dessert from one of the 24 local restaurants and coffee shops on the list.

“We want to see all local businesses survive this tough time, and there has never been a more important time to support local businesses than right now,” Vaux said.

The organizations also created a coloring contest, and Vaux said those efforts have been a silver lining to an otherwise difficult crisis, providing some much-welcomed inspiration. He said he is hopeful there will be new opportunities that arise after the virus outbreak subsides.

“With how low the federal interest rates are right now, access to capital could be more readily available. There could also be more storefronts available after this at an affordable price, and there might be a new labor pool out there for businesses,” Vaux said. “Everyone has a lot of challenges they are facing, but going at them with the support of your community is a great thing.”


Village Bowl in Mitchell is one of the local businesses that had to temporarily close in April 2020 during the city shutdown. As part of the $2.8 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds the city is set to receive, one of the eligible uses is to aid small businesses that have been negatively affected by the pandemic. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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