The past three weeks have been nothing short of unbelievable and that adjective does not even seem adequate. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly challenged us—our leaders, businesses, workers and economy. The severity of the very fluid situation changed hourly, shifting to daily. In a short period of time, the way we learn, conduct business and live our lives were all disrupted.
This has and will continue to be a challenging time. Business leaders had to reinvent their entire business models with little to no notice. Leaders face unchartered territory, shifting regulation, difficult decisions, and the fear of maintaining the livelihood of their business and retaining the jobs for their employees with fewer customers. Thousands of workers, who are like family, have taken pay cuts or have lost their jobs altogether for an unknown amount of time.
However, amid this time of uncertainty and change, I have seen resiliency, adaptation, ingenuity, compassion and unity in its truest, most authentic form. Locals have rallied around efforts to support our local businesses and non-profit organizations. Manufacturers have shifted their production to retain their talented workforce, while filling a critical need of personal protective equipment for medical professionals on the front lines of fighting this epidemic. Retailers, arts/culture organizations, restaurants, gyms/fitness businesses have taken a hard pivot into the digital space – offering online ordering, Facebook live sales, DIY at-home projects, educational content, and more. Local, state, and federal lawmakers have worked to create bipartisan legislation to provide much needed aid for hardworking Americans and businesses of all size. I have seen neighbors serving neighbors –providing food for students in need, displaying teddy bears or hearts in their windows as a sign of hope, and going to the grocery store for the immunocompromised and elderly.
These examples are a mere sampling of the adaptation and kindness that has occurred, but they are indicative of our very nature — the definition of who we are as Americans. From the Miracle of Hickory during the devastating polio epidemic, to the Great Recession, within more recent memory, our community time and time again has pulled together, hunkered down, and has emerged bruised, but not defeated. The COVID-19 economic disruption will be no different.
Our communities’ health and well-being are our top priority. Our neighbors’ lives are at risk and we cannot afford to overwhelm our healthcare infrastructure. Our government leaders have had to make some tough choices to flatten the curve. We must withstand these temporary setbacks, all while doing our part to protect our families, co-workers, and neighbors.
It continues to be an honor to serve in this role on your behalf every day. Regardless of the IRS definition, I believe that all businesses are “essential:”
You make up our local economy, bringing personality to our cities and towns.
You create a place to belong, to connect, to celebrate. and to cultivate a new relationship.
You are the familiar face mixing up our favorite cocktail or the server who makes you smile by remembering your name.
You are the retailer who pays attention to every detail — from your front window display to your thoughtfully selected merchandise.
You provide opportunity, a second chance, a means of supporting a family, and the hope and promise of a better future.
You make and sell products that improve the lives of humanity across our region, country and the globe.
You have sacrificed for incremental growth, have faced tough decisions, and have seen seasons of success and set back.
You are stylists, therapists, and self-care professionals who have mastered your craft to provide needed rest, healing, enhanced confidence, or even a listening ear, to your clients.
You give our communities vibrancy, energy, and attraction.
You are essential….and we need you.
The United Regional Chamber of Commerce is your partner, sounding board, and advocate. We are in this with you.
Working for Business,
Jack Lank, IOM President and CEO
The United Regional Chamber of Commerce