By Rick Fabrizio, Director of Communications and Public Policy
It was a perfect early June morning as I waited to meet the president of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce. I sat outside at a picnic table, among the many outdoor seating options at cafes and restaurants made popular, and necessary, during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I was meeting John Nyhan as part of my work for the Business and Industry Association, New Hampshire’s statewide chamber of commerce. I joined BIA April 1 after 24 years in the newspaper business. Timing is everything. My first interview with BIA was in person with a mask on. The second, with a larger group, was via Zoom. I was praying my internet wouldn’t glitch and the cat wouldn’t walk across the keyboard — again. If you haven’t experienced this yet, let me warn you, it’s like you are facing a tic tac toe board of people, not sure who is going to pepper you with questions next. If nothing else, it kept me on my toes!
Life has gotten a lot better in my first two months on the job.
Part of my role is to meet with presidents of the chambers of commerce as doing business in New Hampshire inches toward a more normal environment. Reconnecting with people is even more special and rewarding than before it was largely taken away due to COVID-19. Months spent working in sweatshirts and athletic pants in my basement or on my deck left me short of professionally fulfilled.
I headed inside Kay’s Café & Baker at the Galley Hatch in Hampton to meet John. I put my mask on, but saw a sign stating the fully vaccinated did not need to wear masks. I kept mine on for a few minutes, despite my vax card status, as I saw a few people wearing masks, but many weren’t. I always tried to honor the intent of masking yet questioned how you must wear a mask walking around a restaurant, but not when seated. Off the mask went. It is so nice to breath without a mask.
John arrived shortly after and offered a handshake I gladly accepted. It was my third in the past two weeks. A simple gesture, long taken for granted, is now another part of reconnecting and reengaging — in person. Zoom is great, sort of, but it’s no substitute for handshakes, talking over coffee and seeing smiles that don’t freeze up as the internet does.
John and I talked about top issues affecting the small businesses of the chamber’s membership. I am sure you can guess the top two: Lack of workers and lack of housing. The conversation meandered as it does when business advocates are talking and connecting. Not lost on the moment of sitting at a table, maskless, sipping coffee, we discussed how important it is for businesspeople to network, in person; shaking hands, smiling, laughing and trying to find solutions to problems.
Businesses of all types really don’t operate in silos. They share opportunities and challenges. Connecting businesses and their leaders in meetings, golf outings, business after-hours, programs and more, pools their expertise and increases the ability to beat challenges and create more economic opportunity.
John is the fifth chamber president I have met with, all in-person. I have about 15 more to go in my initial round of talks with these business advocates. I look forward to each one. I love meeting face to face. As the worst of the pandemic drifts into the past I will never forget my days spent alone working from my basement bar, editing stories on the pandemic with no known conclusion. Fall and winter came and went, and my early spring start with BIA coincided with brighter days. I am thankful to work in a sunlit office, with colleagues around me. I hear them laugh, see them smile. It’s good to feel normal again.
Want to reconnect? Contact Rick.