To quote a phrase that has been uttered in various forms over the years: “Don’t let a crisis go to waste.” Not meaning to downplay the detrimental effects a crisis has on a society, but the fact of the matter is that we as individuals have endured a number of crises and leadership is born from those who most effectively deal with how we ultimately recover.
The Tucson Metro Chamber is not wasting this crisis. Nor are our many partners throughout the business community who are diligently discussing ways in which we can assist those businesses who are struggling to make ends meet. The efforts have been many, but the work is critical as the bedrock of our community’s economic vitality rests with the success of our small, medium and large businesses.
Our immediate action was to call and email all 1,500 members of our chamber. This gave us a well-rounded perspective on the challenges the companies were facing and determined ways we could assist them.
We then assembled the business organizations throughout the region and created a resource page on our website for businesses of all sizes to learn about the federal, state and local assistance and loan programs, employee resources, industry-specific resources and updates from the offices of the governor and mayor. Our site, tucsonchamber.org/covid19, is updated daily.
Understanding the importance of communication as new information comes in, we turned our Knowledge@Noon series into a daily session. These virtual meetings focus on applying for SBA loans, managing your business in a crisis, access to local funds and grants and allowing our members to showcase their services—to name a few. We also extended the invitation to these free webinars to non-members.
Additional activities include:
• Setting up a Restaurant Advisory Council to create best industry practices, identifying regulatory barriers to doing business and overall advocating for the industry at all levels of government
• Leading efforts to create Tucson Helping Tucson and working with the City of Tucson to build the Resiliency fund, which now totals just over $1 million
• Bringing an effective, skills-based matching technology in the form of PipelineAZ to Southern Arizona to link job seekers with job opportunities throughout the state, which is especially needed during this time
While all of these programs have been helpful to keep conversations alive, share valuable and timely information, and ensure continued business-to-business connections, now it is time to pivot toward the recovery.
The conversations with our members and the community are now focused on how companies in a variety of industries should integrate methods to ensure a healthy and safe environment. Even with the potential lifting of the shelter-in-place restrictions on May 15, people will need to be reassured restaurants, gyms, and other “non-essential” businesses are clean and safe. The last thing our business community would want to experience is a resurgence of COVID-19 cases which would cause another disastrous shut down.
We have been chairing Pima County’s Back to Business Task Force related to employers and employees. This partnership with the county’s health department and the leadership of Dr. England and Dr. Garcia is important and will help to guide our business decisions locally.
The chamber is proud to help lead recovery efforts. The many conversations we have held with business owners throughout the region give us a unique ability to share the concepts and ideas that will help to develop the appropriate health and safety guidelines businesses can implement to ensure public safety.
We want our businesses to open and we want our community to be safe. We don’t plan to waste this crisis and believe that the solutions forthcoming will help make Tucson even stronger.
Michael Guymon is the Tucson Metro Chamber Vice President.