Much to appreciate in Western New York living

As we watch with anxiety and grave concern while large portions of the Western United States burn in wildfires, hurricanes batter our southern and eastern coastlines, and the coronavirus pandemic continues to rapidly infect and take the lives of Americans in a number of communities across this country, we are grateful to be living here in Western New York. 2020 will certainly be marked in the history books as a year in which our nation and the world faced significant social, environmental and health challenges. While we pray for the people and communities who are enduring this suffering, we should also recognize the fact that here in our little corner of New York State there is much to appreciate.

We have businesses that are rebounding after the shutdown earlier this year. Our local business community has once again demonstrated its resilience and ability to innovate. We have watched this past year as companies large and small redesigned their business models to suit the rapidly changing needs of customers. Manufacturers innovated to help provide personal protective equipment. Restaurants adapted the way they serve customers. Front-line workers in health care and a variety of work settings adjusted their normal work routines to make it comfortable and safe for their customers. Despite a struggling economy there are businesses in Chautauqua County ready to hire personnel yet struggling to find the people they need to fill open positions.

We are surrounded by natural beauty and access to the great outdoors through parks, lakes, and four-season recreational opportunities. While our local theaters have not been able to reopen yet, most museums and cultural institutions have found new ways to put programming online and provide safe environments for foot traffic. With perseverance, creativity, and a focus on safety most of our local attractions have found a way to provide programming.

Despite a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Western New York, we remain far below many parts of the country. Yet our percentages here are still much lower than many other states as we see outbreaks continuing even in other parts of rural America. We don’t take that lightly and it is an indicator that our caution here is working. We continue to strongly advise mask-wearing and social distancing and that businesses continue to implement and remain cognizant of state guidelines. Those guidelines are keeping us safe and keeping our businesses and schools open.

Challenging times are often the stimulus for innovation. As we do a lot of hand wringing in our area pertaining to population decline, we need to consider whether this is a moment when we can ‘flip our script”. Consider for a moment that the pandemic and natural disasters may significantly change the way people view their quality of life and where they live? What can we as a community do to make the most of our welcoming county? How can we better make room to build on our assets? Will others see Chautauqua County as a more advantageous place to live or open a business? Can we stem the flow of out migration in this region by being a safe, welcoming, and innovative place where businesses will thrive?

These are the questions we should all ask ourselves now, and then we should be developing action steps around our answers. We already offer an exceptional quality of life and affordable living. The time may be ripe to begin to take advantage of our assets here.


Each year the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce recognizes the dedication and efforts of people and organizations countywide during our Annual Awards Banquet. This year we will do the same, but we will do it online. The Virtual Awards Banquet is October 8 at 6pm. We will pay tribute to a number of individuals and organizations as follows: Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year Award will go to the Small Business Revolution Committee and the Business Selected for Season 5; the Chautauqua County Chamber of Commerce Economic Development Award is going to The Chautauqua Center. Community Service awards from each Community Chamber of Commerce will go to: Dunkirk – Roberto Fred; Fredonia – Michele Joy; Hanover – Betty Valvo; Jamestown – Russ and June Diethrick; Mayville-Chautauqua – Burl Swanson; and Westfield-Barcelona – James “Shaggy” Ruch.

The Chamber Virtual Awards Banquet is sponsored by Community Bank, County of Chautauqua Industrial Development Agency, Digitell, DFT Communications, Lawley Insurance, Media One Radio Group, National Grid, OBSERVER, and The Post-Journal.

We encourage all participants to get a delicious takeout meal from one of our many local restaurants or caterers and enjoy your own private ‘banquet’ experience while you watch our awards presentation online. To learn more visit our web page at www.chamberrsvp.org.


The September 30 deadline is approaching, and it is imperative that everyone in Chautauqua County complete the 2020 Census. Locally, Census workers have been going door to door to help count our population and that field collection is set to run through the end of September.

The Census is taken every ten years and is Constitutionally mandated. The count plays an enormous role in how federal funding is used in communities all across this country. If we are undercounted, funding that should come to Chautauqua County may go elsewhere instead. This is true for human services, housing, law enforcement, and a number of services that we all take for granted. You can also still complete the Census online at 2020census.gov. It takes just minutes and is safe and secure. Your answers to Census questions are always confidential.

We urge all residents to complete the Census, and all businesses to get involved by encouraging your employees, vendors, and contractors to complete the Census. It is a community effort that makes a genuine difference. Make sure you’re counted!


With a demonstrated history of providing cutting edge plans to deliver health insurance to our members, the Chamber is positioned to serve businesses through a private exchange that includes insurance products and ancillary benefits through multiple carriers. For some businesses the New York State of Health is the best fit for their needs. We work with our members to access a wide variety of plan options and ancillary benefits available through the State exchange. For our medium and large size businesses we partner with Lawley Benefits Group. Through this partnership we are able to offer innovative cost saving solutions to our members as well as help our members address health insurance compliance requirements. We are constantly looking at and implementing innovative ways to lower costs and provide the most cost effective insurance possible for our members. To learn more about the Chamber’s health insurance and ancillary offerings please contact our Director of Finance and Insurance Services, Holly McBride, at 499-6607 or hmcbride@chautauquachamber.org


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