Barnes Regional Airport growth, commercial developments help propel Westfield forward in 2021 (Guest viewpoint)

Small and large businesses, municipalities and residents of the Pioneer Valley have all felt the effects of our current economic situation stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we find the value and benefits of our local chamber of commerce.

As we find ourselves in challenging times the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce continues to advocate for the region, its members and our community. While our past focus has been on advancing our local economic development, today we find ourselves working together on helping formulate recovery plans for all our community’s businesses and for compiling governmental information and sharing resources to help businesses survive this ever-changing landscape.

The chamber has been working with our municipal and business leaders at all levels in getting information about how to obtain Paycheck Protection Program loans, assist employers with getting employees connected to retraining programs and filing for unemployment assistance. At the same time the chamber has taken a more aggressive approach with communicating the needs of its members to state and local officials.

The chamber has attended and participated in the monthly teleconferencing meetings with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. These meetings have been highly informative and insightful, which in turn allows us to help our members.

Sharing information on regulatory changes, educational resources as well as financial assistance has been instrumental to many businesses’ survival. Chambers have become the local connection or familiar face where businesses can ask questions, express concerns, or get direction on where to go for specific government assistance.

At the same time, we must provide the programing that members have always relied on for networking, sharing best practices, professional development and having an organization to lobby on their behalf. Through our virtual meetings, Zoom After 5 calls and Morning Coffee Calls with our mayor, we have been giving our members an alternative way to speak with each other, hear and share concerns with our elected officials and continue to benefit from having access to other chamber members who can help aid in the processes of applying for PPP loans and filing for grants.

The Greater Westfield chamber’s board of directors members are all volunteers who are leaders in their respective industries and business roles. They are all willing to sharing their time and resources with our membership while providing a positive outlook and restoring confidence to help further economic recovery.

Some of Westfield’s specific indicators are the development of new commercial properties, an influx of new businesses and seeing expansion and growth of existing businesses. During this COVID time we have seen the redevelopment of the former Westfield Ford-Westfield Feed property, the construction of a new facility by one of the area’s largest law firms and chamber member, Bacon Wilson, with a planned opening this spring, and with the continued growth of Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport.

This past fall the chamber joined in the lobbying efforts of the U.S. Department of Defense in support of Barnes and the Air National Guard’s 104th Fighter Wing to recapitalize the existing F-15 aircraft with the new F-35 aircraft, ensuring that our region play a long-term role in our nation’s defense.

These developments will ultimately help bring more jobs and stability to our region while reinforcing positive economic growth for the city of Westfield and the surrounding communities which it serves. The commitment and confidence of businesses investing in our region will only continue to show optimism and encourage other businesses to stay strong and work with each other to create a catalyst for economic growth.

The Greater Westfield Chamber is committed to serve its members and community through strong leadership, continued local business promotion and offering access to local and state resources for its members.

Dino Gravanis is chairman of the board of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce. To learn more about the chamber and its work, go online