Your Chamber supports business.
We also support community, and public health.
We believe those pillars stand side-by-side – good business helps create an exceptional, healthy community, and vice versa.
The pandemic has stressed these foundations like no other event in our lifetimes. Within our Chamber membership, across Oro Valley and Southern Arizona, across America and the world, public health and economic viability are threatened. Our predicaments are many. Among them, this question – how do we balance public health and economic vitality, 2 values that seem suddenly in competition? Your Chamber board had a vigorous, respectful debate on that subject last Friday … via virtual technology, of course!
Gov. Doug Ducey has been contemplative and conservative in both his initial closures, and in the resumption of business. He’s been praised and criticized for his caution. He’s balancing on a high wire. People are scared and some are sick. Public health has been given the highest priority.
Yet, in the words of one Chamber board member, “businesses are hurting, and it breaks my heart.” Major local employers such as resorts and restaurants have laid off hundreds of people. This pro-business governor is keenly aware of the pain. Trillions of dollars are finding their way from Washington to the front lines. For some businesses, it may be too little, too late. Our economy is receding.
The shutdown has seemed endless, but in fact it is now ending, and quickly. Today, May 8, barbershops and hair salons are able to re-open, and retail establishments can resume “normal” activity – with heightened sanitation, physical distancing and crowd limitation. Then, come Monday, May 11, restaurants can open to in-store dining, with many guidelines.
Will people come out?
During a press conference, Gov. Ducey made reference to his conversation with a Fortune 100 executive, who said this: 30 percent of your residents are ready to go out to dinner right now; 30 percent are afraid to leave home and may not do so; and 40 percent are undecided. They could be persuaded. They may be open to careful business practices in a “new” normal. In the governor’s words, “they need to feel, see and smell a difference, an increased focus on physical distancing and cleanliness.”
It’s imperative that we restore consumer confidence, so our guests feel safe, respected and welcomed. We urge businesses to post instructions on distancing, and put tape on the floor. It’s also vital to protect employees; they’re our customers, too! We urge that they be equipped with masks, hand sanitizer, and physical screening when needed. We urge exceptional attention to cleanliness, and to the little sanitary details that will keep a customer coming back, and protect employee health.
Businesses need guidance, not regulation. We urge governments to allow expanded use of signage, to relax any restrictions on outdoor dining space, to embark on advertising campaigns in tandem with the private sector and the Chamber. But let’s go easy on rules, please. Because, ultimately, it’s up to each business to rebuild its relationship with each consumer. If people aren’t comfortable and confident getting out … they won’t go out. And, again, from Gov. Ducey, “no action is superior to an economy that’s functioning.”
The governor has referred to our economy as a dimmer, not a light switch. It’s not on-off. We’re turning up the dial just as Mother Nature does the same. It’s summer, already the slowest time of year for many businesses. The prospects for vitality are, at best, uncertain. Meanwhile, cash is running out. Workers are dispersed. And – a big one – child care options for employees have shrunken.
Your Chamber stands prepared as a resource to answer questions and seek solutions. We can share the practices of a major employer, screening employees as it continues production. We can share the practices of our resort industry, which is taking extraordinary measures to ensure both employee and guest safety. We can show you how a major insurance and travel office devotes time every day to frequently wiping every door handle, every pen, every hard surface. Please ask for our help.
Let’s get back to business. Let’s show every employee and guest they are welcomed, and that their safety is the highest priority. Let’s patch up our pillars, and move into a very bright future.