COVID-19 has brought about more change than anyone could have ever imagined. The Tulare Chamber of Commerce quickly adapted to the challenges to continue providing programming and add services required to meet the needs of businesses. We have walked alongside business for 136 years and now, more than ever, our hands are tightly joined to support business sustainability.

The chamber’s events have been held virtually, and some are waiting in the wings. Although virtual is not the same as seeing people in person and shaking hands, the events have allowed our members near and far to connect in a new way.

Sunworks staff members from Roseville were able to join the online Business After Hours Networking mixer, something that would not have been possible for an in-person event. What a pleasure it has been to mingle virtually, engage in fun games, give a business pitch, make new contacts and strengthen existing relationships.

Leadership Tulare changed course and went virtual with the state government session. Class members may not have toured the Capitol in Sacramento, but the virtual learning about the state Legislature and current issues made for a great program. The class was able to meet with Assemblyman Devon Mathis, state Sen. Shannon Grove, political journalist/author Dan Walters and city lobbyist Richard Harmon. The session was a highlight of the year for class members.

The year 2019-20 was the inaugural for the Tulare Chamber of Commerce Youth Ambassadors for Business Program for local high school students. Students began with the Youth Leadership Academy in July 2019 and spent the program months learning about business, leadership, community stewardship, chamber operations and more. They truly enjoyed this unique opportunity to grow their leadership capabilities while engaging with business and community leaders. Although completing the program did not look like anyone anticipated a year ago, the Youth Ambassadors were able to celebrate with a fun, drive-through graduation and receive recognition from our elected officials and businesses. The unique opportunities experienced in the program have created lasting memories.

Although traditional celebrations could not be held for National Dairy Month, the Tulare Chamber of Commerce was able to highlight the county’s founda-tional industry in other ways. Dairy families were recognized on social media, including the Airoso family, which has been dairy farming in Tulare County since 1912. Phillip, Ruby and Max are the sixth generation at the dairy, raising 2,900 registered Holsteins, farming 1,350 acres and employing 38 families. The Airoso Dairy was the first operation to convert cow gas into renewable energy.

The chamber will host a Salute to Dairy Celebration when regulations permit. A Dairy Family of the Year will be named and the new Dairy Princess will be honored.

As the Tulare Chamber of Commerce continues to accommodate the ever-changing way of life, the 136-year-old organization remains committed to delivering its services in fresh, innovative approaches while anticipating a return to the “new” normal.