By Max Bowen –firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s a word that has been on everyone’s minds lately and discussion has been on what that will look like. Which businesses will be permitted to open first? What will the restrictions be? What long-term changes will need to become a part of daily life as we go to restaurants, movie theaters, and retail stores?
As North Attleborough officials await guidance on this from the state, they’re also doing what they can to help business owners recover from more than two months with the doors closed. Town Manager Michael Borg said that keeping people safe is the top priority.
“Venturing outside, I think that’s gong to be based around face masks around and social distancing,” said Borg.
Currently, Gov. Charlie Baker’s closure of non-essential businesses is set to end on May 18. Many states have set similar dates for re-opening, and a few have already done so. Jack Lank, president and CEO of the United Regional Chamber of Commerce, said that some owners feel that it’s time to get back work, and others want to adhere to the rules. Many of the people he talks with are in the restaurant business and wonder what the new rules will be. To help support them, the chamber launched the Rally Around The Restaurants page, which gives a list of those offering takeout or delivery service during the shutdown.
“They’re concerned with what are the rules going to be, will tables need to be closed,” he said.
Lank watches the governor’s daily briefing and participates in a weekly conference call with state officials. The chamber has been an information source and Lank said that everything is verified before it is sent to business owners.
“We look at business plans, marketing plans, cash flow,” he said. “We find different articles for the members to read.”
Another service that will be made available is the new Town Council Economic Growth and Sustainability Committee, proposed by Town Councilor Adam Scanlon and supported early on by Councilor Darius Gregory and Vice-President Justin Paré. The committee will allow residents, councilors, business owners, and town level administration to collaborate on key issues facing the business community. Scanlon said that one of the short-term goals will be to bring forth resources which can help businesses recover.
“Post this, the committee will be a great asset to work with administration to bring it together to increase new growth by 2 percent,” said Scanlon. “We’ll outline where the town is going.”
Borg said that the economic recovery may be slow, as people will still want to be cautious in the early days. He said that capacity and the ability to social distance will be two important factors that determine the restrictions placed on a business. For example, a manufacturing company can implement social distancing better than a restaurant, and the latter may see limitations on how many people can be inside at a time.
“We’re looking for guidance for how that will be implemented and expected,” he said.
Borg credited the work done by Economic Development Coordinator Lyle Pirnie. Through the town’s web site, Pirnie has made information available on loans and grants that businesses can apply for and Borg said some have been able to secure this funding. He added that those with a plan in place will fare better once the reopening happens.
“We want them to succeed,” said Borg. “We will help them as much as we can.”
Along with businesses, Town Hall had to close its doors during the shutdown. The offices remained open for normal operations, but through phone calls and e-mails. It’s another part of daily life that Borg said will need to change after the doors open. The Town Election has been postponed until June 30, and how this will be done is being looked at. For other services, masks and gloves will likely be needed, and appointments may need to be scheduled ahead of time for different departments. He’s also looking at whether some things can be done remotely or electronically and be in compliance with state law.
“We listen to all the governor’s press briefings,” said Borg. “At the end of the day, we will take those changes and fold them right in.”