Andy Cripps & Effingham County Chamber of Commerce: Community Counts
“We've been very impressed with our business community and how they have adapted in unusual circumstances. Some businesses were hurt more than others; however, in general, our business community has come through very strong. It’s not that they haven’t been affected, but they’ve adapted and managed,” Andy stated.
Andy has been Effingham’s Chamber of Commerce Director since mid-January. Andy, along with his wife Diane, a history museum curator, and their son Matthew, are New Jersey natives. In 2018, Andy relocated to Effingham from Virginia, where he was also a part of the Smithfield, Virginia Chamber of Commerce. In fact, Andy has done chamber work since 1999.
Upon moving to the area, Andy has noticed how very unique the Effingham community truly is: close-knit, inviting and hospitable. He is happy to call Effingham his home.
“It’s a wonderful place to be. The community couldn’t have been more welcoming to me. They’re tremendously supportive of the chamber and local businesses. It’s very exciting. I’m also excited about working with local businesses to see what we can do to make Effingham even more attractive,” he said.
Whether new home decor stores, antique shops and clothing venues in downtown Springfield, or an old-style barbershop in Guyton, small businesses have been doing just that -- making the community an even more attractive place to live.
“If you drive down Laurel Street in Springfield, you see new shops opening up there; new businesses are also starting up in Rincon and Guyton. It’s all about community-based shops. They’re popping up and servicing the needs in the community,” he said.
Andy mentions a little bakery that just recently opened up in Rincon; a line of customers were waiting to support the new business and kindly welcomed it to the area. “You just don’t see that everywhere,” he added. He, too, is familiar with the story of a local hair salon that was compelled to shut its doors when COVID hit; however, after overcoming the odds, it has been able to re-open for its customers. Andy knows that there are several stories of such strength and fortitude among Effingham’s businesses. Further, he has long known how vital it is for citizens to support local commerce. When residents decide to shop within the county, entrepreneurs thrive. In addition, new jobs are created and beneficial relationships are established while tax dollars are able to be kept within the community; hence, citizens are able to maintain a vested interest in the overall welfare of their local area.
“Three-fourths of all jobs are created by small businesses. Supporting local businesses keeps funds within your local community, allowing them to circulate and multiply; it supports your neighbors and their families. Local businesses contribute to local charities, local churches and local schools; this is an area that very strongly supports their schools. As a result, we have outstanding schools that attract people from other areas who want [good] opportunities for their kids. All of this is because of the support of local businesses and residents,” he asserted.
Andy, alongside the Effingham Chamber, strives to help businesses succeed and grow while also “overcoming the challenges of running a small business.” Moreover, Andy knows that such prosperity is achievable by having open lines of communication between the businesses, citizens and the chamber. In fact, some of his biggest goals as chamber director are to “connect businesses to consumers through better overall communication and to build the chamber’s ‘voice for business’ among local government officials.”
Andy encourages Effingham citizens to continue to support local-area shops. During a time when big business conglomerates often overwhelm the marketplace and online shopping is commonplace, there is little comparable to the warm service, personal touch and quality experience that comes with visiting a nice, local establishment. Actually, consumers have a great opportunity to support local venues during Small Business Saturday on Saturday, November 28th. Normally occurring the Saturday after Thanksgiving, the shopping holiday was initially launched to “inspire consumers to shop within their own communities during the holiday season...it reminds them that they play a key role in helping the small businesses within their community thrive.”