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John Gamades and Jessica Klaustermeier from Orange Ball Creative giving tips and adivce to the NYA Chamber. (Megan Glenn/News and Times)

To celebrate a new year and new projects, the Norwood Young America Area Chamber of Commerce met on January 28 to enjoy their annual banquet. This year’s banquet was held at Northside Grill, and saw speakers from Orange Ball Creative and the Open to Business Program. They came to give tips to the many businesses in NYA that will likely be affected by the scheduled construction of Highway 212.

The first speaker was Lee Hall from the Open to Business Program, a free statewide program that offers business consultations for owners. He presented on what the businesses in NYA can expect during the construction.

“There will be a fall in customer traffic,” said Hall. “While the direct effect number isn’t known, most businesses will see less traffic.”

Even though 212 isn’t going to see a complete closure throughout the project, the construction will still have an effect on businesses. According to Hall, there are two separate effects that businesses have to deal with. There’s the acute effect of losing business through it, but there’s also a chronic effect that many businesses struggle with, according to Hall: human habits.

“Some businesses never recover their customers, which is the bad news,” said Hall. “People have a habit of visiting their favorite businesses, and once they have to change, they get a new habit.”

To help businesses prepare and even prevent these effects, Hall, and John Gamades and Jessica Klaustermeier from Orange Ball Creative provided tips for business owners attending the dinner. The first tip was pretty simple: be informed. Business owners need to know what’s going on and when for the project, so they can inform their customers on what to expect themselves.

But the most important way to keep customers is to communicate, with customers, staff, and other businesses.

“The real challenge is bringing back customers,” said Hall. “Consider different methods of sale.”

Things to think about include possible shipping, partnering with other businesses to use a different store front, or put up a pop-up shop around town away from construction if possible. Of course, though this can mitigate the drop in sales, there will still be a fall. Planning for that fall, whether that’s reducing hours or adjusting orders needs to be accounted for, and staff needs to know that it’s coming, according to Hall.

One the biggest and best tools to help communicate is social media, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, or Linkdin.

“Build lists of names now,” said Klaustermeier. “People are going to go to social media for information on what’s going on with your business.”

One of the biggest advantages of social media is how it can spread. A customer may see an update, and knowing that their own friends visit the same business, may share the information on their page, and so on.

Even if a business or person doesn’t use social media, though, it’s important to still communicate with customers. Maybe talk to them while they’re in the store, update the store webpage, or send out a customer-wide email. So long as the customer knows what’s going on, they can know how to get to the goods they want or need without worry.

“It’s important to be positive,” said Gamades. “If you’re having a good time, your customers are going to want to come back.”

An example of staying positive that Gamades presented was the #WaconiaMinute, the hastag Orange Ball Creative penned when highway 5 was seeing extensive construction. It served two purposes. The first was it was a fun, easy way for customers to remember that while construction made the trek longer, it wasn’t that much longer. The second is hashtags allow people to search on social media, so they can see any posts with the hashtag attached.

For Norwood Young America, they have also received a hashtag: #NYAIsOpen. This hashtag communicates two things. First, the highway is going to remain open through the project, and second that the businesses are ready and waiting for people to come in.

One final tip was to take advantage of the situation.

“Maybe you’ve been needing to renovate the store, or maybe you have wanted to take a vacation after years of having your own business,” said Gamades. “If there’s a time to do it, it’s when sales are going to be down and less busy, so use this chance to do some of these kinds of projects.”

And remember, that social media doesn’t need to be perfect, Gamades continued. Establishing your own tempo and doing your best as a business owner is all it needs.

The City of NYA will always have accurate information on what’s going on with 212, so it would be wise to keep an the city’s Facebook as well as any shops you frequent. For any businesses seeking a consultation, Hall does have an office in Chaska, though it would be best to contact info@mccmn.org to make an appointment. Orange Ball Creative can help with marketing, and can be contacted at 612-326-9811.

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