Spokane Journal of Business

The Journal’s View: Coming out of quarantine, business sector must unite

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As Spokane County enters the next phase of reopening and begins to look further ahead, now is the time for the business community to band together to ensure it returns to prosperity as soon as is practical.

We have the wherewithal and will to do so. A number of challenges lie ahead, as do new realities, but the potential to reemerge and start to grow again is tangible, if we form a unified front, as we’ve done in the past.

In these unprecedented times, business owners, managers, employees, and customers have mounting, understandable frustrations, but not all of the same worries. Some feel as though the current COVID-19-related restrictions are unnecessary and an overreach by government. On the other end of the spectrum, others believe we aren’t doing enough to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Many fall someplace in between, wanting to be able to return to something that resembles normal life but not wanting a return of an increase in COVID-19 cases and the restrictions that come with trying to stop the spread of the virus.

The reality, in the coming months, is that those with conflicting experiences and opinions will need to put them aside and move in the same direction if we are to be successful. That will require wearing a mask, even if it seems unnecessary, or respecting another’s decision to go out to eat while deciding to stay in a bit longer. 

At the most basic level, three things need to happen. Businesses need to have the confidence to reopen. Employees must feel safe returning to work. Customers have to feel comfortable returning to stores and restaurants. If just one element of that dynamic falls short, none of it works.

As has been well publicized, Spokane’s neighbors in North Idaho are open for business again. Look at a map of Washington counties that have moved to the second phase in the state’s Stay Safe plan, and Spokane is literally surrounded by rural communities that have been allowed to move on. One can see why more people are asking, essentially, “Why not us?” and feeling a sense of urgency to progress to the next steps.

Of course, much of the business community has been working in concert with local health care experts since the pandemic first became detected in the U.S. Meantime, Greater Spokane Incorporated and other regional chambers of commerce have been in close contact with the Spokane Regional Health District, as well as local elected officials. They have been quick to communicate information as it becomes available. 

While many have worked diligently to help the business community navigate the health crisis, GSI CEO Alisha Benson has emerged as a leader in the effort, potentially drawing from her work in public health early in her career. She deserves kudos for being on the forefront of advocating for business during this time of constant change and uncertainty.

Now is the time for all to come together in support of a larger goal. As Spokane County enters the second phase of reopening the economy, we can get back to growing more quickly with a unified effort, for the sake of business owners, employees, and customers alike.

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