Chamber News

Chamber news and updates are shared below. Check this page for minutes from Chamber board and member meetings, future plans, and helpful news and resources from area partners.

Chamber Activities

Events

Looking back, the 2020 International Festival of Owls was Houston's last big hurrah for the year. As you know, many events following looked different or just didn't happen at all.

 

The Lawn Chair Concert Series, Houston Hoedown, craft fairs, and the Chamber's annual Block Party were cancelled, but we were able to enjoy a virtual Root River Triathlon experience for the first time in the event's history, do some distanced business trick or treating over Halloween, and watch City Park light up for the holiday season.

 

Chamber Activity

Overall, we admit the year was pretty quiet, but we'd still like to recognize a few great developments and accomplishments:

 

  • Chamber became the fiscal agent of the Houston Hollidazzle.

  • We received multiple crisis marketing grants through Explore Minnesota to help stimulate tourism where possible.

  • We created a 2020 Senior Recognition program for mini awards to Houston High School's graduating class.

  • We may not have had a Lawn Chair Concert Series, but we were able to help Sponsor Mollie B. and the Jim Busta Band for a performance at Valley View Nursing Home.

  • In lieu of funds being used on other events, we donated $1,000 to the Houston Food Shelf for supplies to be purchased from Houston businesses.

 

Looking Ahead

Going into the next year, here are just a few things in the works: 

 

  • Update our Houston brochures to support the increase in visitors Houston Nature Center and area outdoor recreation opportunities have seen, 

  • Look at fundraising options for the Chamber and to support Houston's new community center,

  • Explore virtual events and other online opportunities to showcase Houston,

  • Continue to support tourism and feature our businesses and organizations in area publications and online.

Meeting Minutes

Board meetings are held the 3rd Monday of each month unless scheduling conflicts arise. Meetings are open to the public and members are encourages to attend. As of now, meetings are generally held virtually; contact the Chamber to request a meeting link.

January 2020 - All Member Meeting

February 2020 - Special Meeting for Approval of Bylaws Updates

February 2020 - Board Meeting

March 2020 - Meeting Cancelled

April 2020 - Board Meeting

May 2020 - Board Meeting

June 2020 - Board Meeting

July 2020 - Board Meeting

August 2020 - Meeting Cancelled

September 2020 - Board Meeting

October 2020 - Board Meeting

November 2020 - Board Meeting

December 2020 - Board Meeting

January 2021 - Meeting Cancelled

February 2021 - Board Meeting

March 2021 - Board Meeting

News & Resources

New COVID-19 Business Relief Grant Available

Houston County has received $367,594.71 from the State of Minnesota to be used for a business relief grant (and grant administration) for County businesses impacted by an executive order related to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

 

A total of $302,195.00 in grant funds was awarded in the first round.

 

Round 2 will launch on Friday, February 26, 2021. The application, program details, and instructions will be available on the (EDA) website at https://houstoncountymn.com/covid-19/.

 

Limited funds remain. We anticipate funding running out quickly. The final deadline is Friday, March 5th at 4:30 p.m. or sooner if funds run out before the deadline. 

 

Questions should be directed to Houston County EDA Director, Allison Wagner by e-mailing EDA@co.houston.mn.us or calling 507-725-5836.

February 28, 2021

Virtual Career Fair Opportunity Offered by Bluff Country Collaborative

"The Bluff Country Collaborative schools are coming together to offer a 2-day Virtual Career Fair. The goal is to have representation from local businesses to give a 30 minute presentation about their career and industry, followed by a short Q&A. The event is occurring on February 4th and 5th, and will be hosted on FutureForward™. We are asking professionals if they are available to host one or more of these sessions, and students will sign up for the sessions they are interested in. These sessions will be offered to all seven schools, which is over 1,000 high school students. Below is a brief outline of the event:

 

WHO: Professionals in the 16 Career Clusters

WHAT: Virtual Career Days presentations, ~30 minutes in length, plus Q&A

WHERE: Virtually, hosted on FutureForward™

WHEN: February 4th 8am – 3pm & February 5th 8am – noon

WHY: To give students more information so they can make informed decisions on what to do after high school.

 

If you are interested in participating in this event, please contact BCCNavigators@ssc.coop for more information."

January 24, 2021

Chamber Annual All Member Meeting Postponed

The Chamber has decided to postpone its annual meeting to March and reevaluate then. The Chamber board will remain as is for the time being until an annual all-member meeting time and place is determined.

December 21, 2020

Executive Order 20-103: COVID Guidance Updates

Governor Walz has issued an executive order to modifying the previous order issued. Restrictions continue to be imposed on certain indoor establishments and gatherings. View the full executive order here.

December 16, 2020

Executive Order 20-96: COVID Guidance Updates

Governor Walz has issued an executive order to take effect Friday, Nov. 13th; updates to guidance existing as of Nov,. 10th will specifically impact bars and restaurants and gathering restrictions for celebrations and significant life events. Find the executive order here. New industry guidance for restaurants and bars here. New industry guidance for gathering restrictions here.

November 10, 2020

Special City of Houston Announcement: Elm Street to Be a One-Way

On September 14th, 2020 Houston City Council passed a resolution making a portion of Elm Street a one-way.

  • The one-way street will begin at the alley east of South Jackson Street and continue to South Sherman Street, running east.

  • There is a pedestrian lane being installed on the south side of Elm Street along the path of the one-way portion of Elm Street.

  • Parking will be allowed on the north side of Elm Street.

  • The one-way street will be implemented beginning October 1st, 2020. 

Any questions please call Houston City Hall at 507-896-4033 or Houston Police Department at 507-896-3076.

September 29, 2020

Business Relief Grants Available

The City of Houston and Houston County have allocated CARES Act funds toward businesses relief grants to help address the effects of COVID-19 on local businesses. Eligibility and fund-use restrictions apply. See the City of Houston and County website for applications and more info.   

September 28, 2020

Meeting to Discuss Potential Business Relief

The Houston Planning Commission/EDA will be meeting on Monday, August 3rd at 5:30 p.m. at the Houston Community Center (upstairs) to discuss potential business relief funding as a result of the CARES Act. The public is welcome to attend. Businesses may also reach out to the City of Houston to provide insight on business needs as a result of COVID-19.

July 27, 2020

Mask Pickup for Houston Businesses

The Houston Area Chamber has received a one-time shipment of disposable face masks from the state of Minnesota to distribute to businesses; these are for use by businesses' customers who may not have their own. Chamber will hold a pickup at Houston Nature Center from 5-6 p.m. on Friday, July 31st. Quantities are very limited, so masks will be given to businesses on a first-come, first-served basis. Limit one 50-ct box per business.

July 27, 2020

Statewide Masking Mandate

As of July 25, people in Minnesota will be required to wear face masks when in indoor public places and business unless they are alone. More details on face coverings, industry-specific guidelines, and all requirements executive order 20-81 can be found at https://www.health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/facecover.html.

July 23, 2020

Houston County Public Health Note for Businesses

Houston County Public Health & Human Services would like to encourage any business who is notified of an employee testing positive for COVID-19 to reach out as soon as possible. As information and guidance change, they can provide answers and better trace cases if notified early on. Businesses may contact 507-725-5810. A roundtable discussion is also being held Wednesday, July 8th at 10 a.m. for business owners to hear from other local businesses and have Q&A time with Houston County Public Health & Human Services via Zoom. You must register for this by emailing EDA@co.houston.mn.us.

July 1, 2020 [Updated July 2, 2020]

Using Tourism to Attract New Residents Virtual Convening

A free virtual event from SE MN Together, this session on July 30 from 12:45-3:30 p.m. will be focused on exploring the opportunity to draw new residents to rural towns via current tourism habits. With an increase in remote work, visitors have the ability to travel and consider different ways of life in rural areas, and this virtual event will provide possible actions towns can take to enhance their own appeal. Register here.

July 1, 2020

Community Cookbook Project by Mainspring

Nonprofit Mainspring, out of Caledonia, MN, is seeking submissions for a community cookbook project features recipes from around the region. All are welcome to submit for inclusion in the book; the project's purpose is to help build community around food and rural culture though large gatherings may not be possible. Visit mainspringmn.org/cookbook for more information and to submit a recipe.

June 21, 2020

Growing Stronger Together Free Webinar Series

The Houston County EDA, in partnership with CEDA's Harvest Entrepreneur Network program, is bringing you a "Growing Stronger Together" free webinar series. This series will feature successful producers' practical guidance and action insights to help grow businesses. The first webinar will be June 12, 2020 from 10-11 a.m. Registration is required. Find all topics and register at https://houstoncountymn.com/agriculture/.

June 9, 2020

#StaySafeMN Organized Sports Update

The Minnesota Department of Health is providing guidance on the planned opening of organized sports. The process begins with practice and games for low-risk activities for small groups and slowly growing. Additional guidance for youth and adult sports, aquatic facilities, and more may be found at https://staysafe.mn.gov/industry-guidance/organized-sports.jsp.

June 9, 2020

#StaySafeMN Plan Phase 2 Allows for Outdoor Dining

Starting June 1, under Phase 2 of the #StaySafeMN plan allows bars and restaurants to re-open for outdoor dining with limitations. This includes a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, limited seating capacity, distancing of tables, and more. For details on the Executive Order and answers to frequently asked questions, see the DEED Developments Blog.

May 28, 2020

Houston Chamber Offer 2020 Senior Award Program

The Houston Area Chamber of Commerce is offering Houston High School's 2020 seniors the opportunity to receive a $100 award each upon receipt of a completed application. The award is intended to assist students with any continuing education needs following their high school graduations. Applications are due by 5/31.

May 20, 2020

Safely Returning to Work and Ensuring Safe Non-Work Activities

In light of the governor's decision to allow safely returning to work with some limitations in mind, DEED has compiled a list of FAQs and other helpful information for businesses. Guidance, the executive order, and other resources can be found at https://mn.gov/deed/newscenter/covid/safework/business/.

May 17, 2020

Lawn Chair Concert Series Cancelled

After much consideration, it has been decided that the Lawn Chair Concert Series will be cancelled for the summer of 2020 for the safety of all involved. With uncertainty surrounding the summer months, the Lawn Chair Concert Committee and Chamber board do not want to risk planning large concerts and gatherings.

May 5, 2020

Stay at Home Order Extended, Curbside Allowed for Retail 5/4

Minnesota's Stay at Home Order has been extended to May 18, 2020, but some non-critical, non-customer facing businesses are allowed to reopen if they have a COVID-19 Preparedness Plan (template), follow designated health and safety protocols including health screenings of employees, and continue teleworking as much as possible. Effective May 4, 2020, retail businesses may offer curbside services with the same restrictions in place. See DEED's guidance on safely returning to work.

April 30, 2020

Valley View and Heritage Court Victory Over the Virus Campaign 5/16

Valley View and Heritage Court invite all businesses and community members to participate in their Victory Over the Virus Campaign with a parade on Saturday, May 16 at 2 p.m. Drive through, wave, and bring residents a smile. The parade will line up at Killborn Street and turn left at Maple. No number or lineup direction will be provided. Details in the flyer.

April 27, 2020

Root River Triathlon Postponed to 9/26

The 22nd annual Root River Triathlon will be postponed due to continuing restrictions and precautions of COVID. The event, by the Houston Lions Club, is now scheduled to take place on Sept. 26, 2020 which coincides with the Houston Block Party.

April 25, 2020

La Crosse Tribune Local Marketing Grant Program

The La Crosse Tribune has started a Local Marketing Grant Program that applies across its services. Applications take only a few minutes and businesses must answer how the pandemic has affected your business. Check the application page for details.

April 22, 2020