Imagine taking over as captain of a large ship that is sailing head-on into a storm of epic proportions.
That is how Valerie Zizak-Morais described her first day on the job as American Can yon’s Chamber of Commerce’s new president/CEO.
Zizak-Morais started her new position on March 16, just as business in the United States was slammed to a halt by the COVID-19 health crisis.
“I see the Chamber of Commerce as the most important link between businesses and the local community,” Zizak-Morais explained.
“American Canyon businesses were forced to either slow down or shut down, so we immediately got to work to find solutions.”
Zizak-Morais and her staff began by calling the local restaurants to make a list of those who were offering take-out options.
Banks, grocery stores, pharmacies, convenience stores, and other businesses were contacted and included on the list. This list was then placed on the Chamber website and posted on social media outlets. The result has been overwhelming.
“I was expecting people to reference the information,” Zizak-Morais said, “but I never expected the amount of people who are clicking these pages. Businesses are suffering, but the community is stepping up to support our local businesses. The communication link the Chamber provides is more critical than ever. We are all in this together.”
It is also not just the more visible businesses in American Canyon that are facing new challenges, said the new CEO. The city hosts many large industrial businesses. These businesses employ hundreds of American Canyon residents who are suddenly scrambling to find child care and cope with the impacts from the coronavirus.
“American Canyon is the backbone of the wine industry,” Zizak-Morais explained, “and there are many large employers in the food, manufacturing, and health care industries that are experiencing record employees who are missing work because of the child care and health risk components of COVID-19. The Chamber of Commerce provides the communication link between these businesses so we can meet this challenge together. We also work closely with the City of American Canyon to make sure only accurate, current, and credible information is being shared in the community.”
Zizak-Morais said she feels that providing a two-way link between the community and businesses is her prime job as President/CEO. Her experience in this area was one of the reasons she was selected for the position.
She worked in health care before starting her own business as a massage therapist. Her self-described compulsive nature to serve found her volunteering for numerous groups in American Canyon. When a job opened up as a membership and office coordinator, she jumped at the chance and applied.
“This was a perfect fit for me,” said Zizak-Morais. “I knew so many people in American Canyon through my volunteer work, and I understood the challenges of operating a small business. I was able to grow the membership of the Chamber by helping businesses understand that the Chamber acts as a hub for communication. I also worked to build recognition of the Chamber in the local community. It is important for residents to understand all the great services and products that are available right here at home.”
Zizak-Morais served for a few months as the acting President/CEO and applied for the position knowing her skills, experience, and connections could benefit the organization. She had a history of implementing innovative approaches that strengthened the position of the Chamber as the connection hub for American Canyon businesses. The Chamber agreed that Zizak-Morais was up for the challenge and made her the permanent President/CEO.
“Business as we know it was completely upended on my first official day,” Zizak-Morais said, “but the Chamber of Commerce offers businesses a way forward. We all know that we face a long journey through rough waters once we finally we sail out of the epic storm we are battling today.
There has never been a greater need for businesses, residents, and city hall to work together on solutions. The Chamber continues to keep communication links open so that we can all find solutions that will allow us to prosper as a community.”
You can reach reporter Jennifer Huffman at 256-2218 or email@example.com
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