Commentary by Mark Stewart
Gov. Ducey’s plan to reopen the economy is moving forward and people are eager to learn how they can begin the transition to normalcy.
Arizona’s small businesses, which employ nearly half of the state’s private workforce, are anxiously awaiting the next steps to alleviate the financial strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
As new guidelines are provided by the governor, it is important for businesses, cities and communities to understand how they can play a part in the recovery of Arizona.
Safety is the new brand — As stay-at-home orders lift, businesses will find that many consumers are hesitant to venture out into the world, and rightfully so. People want to know that the restaurants, shops, and salons they frequent are doing everything in their power to keep them safe.
Businesses must make safety part of their new brand if they want to thrive following the pandemic. Organizations should consider investing in safety training and over-communicate their new safety protocols to their customers. Even implementing small changes, like wearing masks or adding a plexiglass barrier between employees and guests, makes for a safer shopping experience and gives shoppers confidence that businesses are taking steps to care for the well-being of their customers.
Open communication is key — Since the beginning of the pandemic, open and honest communication has been critical in keeping residents safe. Now is the time for cities to connect with the medical community and have a candid dialogue on the best procedures moving forward.
Reopening the economy following a pandemic requires that the public and business owners have the most up-to-date information on how to resume safely. With frequent updates on safety procedures, this line of communication is perhaps the most important.
In addition, communication between business owners and city officials is key as mayors and city councils can take major concerns directly to our senators and members of Congress. The Paycheck Protection Program will soon be exhausted, and businesses will likely need another source of assistance.
Chambers of commerce and their city’s economic development departments are great options for owners to tap into for help, resources, and guidance.
Expanding our normal circle — Humans are creatures of habit. It is simple to order from your favorite restaurant or stop by the store near your house for a Mother’s Day gift. What our community needs now, in addition to supporting local businesses, is for all of us to accept the challenge of exploring and visiting new locations.
When possible, travel outside our immediate area and grab lunch to-go from a small family-owned restaurant in a less-frequented area. Even better, recommend them to your friends on social media. It is easy to contain yourself in an area that is familiar, even more so after stay-at-home orders. Now is the time that we can begin to venture out a little farther.
Arizonans are pioneers and have a tenacious entrepreneurial spirit that will help build confidence during this uncertain time. Businesses have been innovative and pivoted to new roles. Consumers have supported them wholeheartedly. As we begin to reopen the economy, our communities must work together with trust and transparency to get through this crisis and become stronger than ever.
West Chandler resident Mark Stewart is a Chandler councilmember, Community and Economic Development committeeman and co-chair for National League of Cities. He also is founder of digital business accelerator Concept2Completion.