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We know that our country, and Arizona in particular, haven’t cleared the first wave of COVID-19 yet. We’re all struggling, and we’re all looking for that fleeting light at the end of the tunnel. In Southern Arizona, collaborative efforts across industry sectors, rather than reliance on just the government, is the path to economic recovery.

Following the statewide closures in March of this year due to COVID-19, the YMCA of Southern Arizona immediately forged a partnership between Banner Health and the State of Arizona to provide low-cost emergency childcare for healthcare workers and first responders. Doing so ensured that these essential workers would be available to provide critical services without having to worry about their families. This is just one example of non-profit, private, and public sectors coming together in the face of an unprecedented challenge. 

Collaboration across industry sectors has occurred throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The public, private and non-profit sectors have proven to be interconnected in overcoming significant challenges and in maintaining stability across Southern Arizona. As our community continues to move forward, we must continue to foster these partnerships.  

The principal need for collaboration within and between sectors for economic recovery is rooted in the fact that each portion of our community has costs and benefits that spill over into one another, creating externalities that need to be managed collaboratively for mutual benefits. Neither the U.S. nor Southern Arizona have ever faced a shutdown and reopening of this scale. Without working together, we run the likelihood of a slow and imbalanced recovery where areas with the most economic fragilities will take the longest to recover, contributing to a slower regional recovery overall. 

There are several ways in which industry sectors can collaborate to promote sustainable recovery and growth in our region. Local governments can partner with community banks and credit unions to help credit enhancement programs, as well provide services to businesses that assist in navigating federal relief programs. They can also work to create consistency in public services and regulations for business re-openings, such as best practices for protecting employees and clients during the pandemic. 

Non-profits can establish regional relief funds in partnership with local corporations to help direct resources to individuals with the greatest need. The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona has already begun this work, notably with TEP, and has distributed tens of thousands of dollars to local charities since the pandemic began. 

Chambers of commerce can act as business liaisons between government and other non-profits to provide recommendations for business needs and workforce development. Chambers can also work directly with small businesses to help avoid cashflow problems, accessing credit lines and reexamining long-term expenses and reducing short-term nonessential operational costs. For example, Growth Partners, an active community partner, and Tucson Metro Chamber Member already engage in this particular area of need. 

Southern Arizona is fortunate to have many examples of cooperation and collaboration, but the question at hand is scale and effective communication. Organizations are able and willing, but will we make the right connections necessary to see our community through this crisis? Can Pima County and the municipalities work together to strengthen business in partnership with the non-profit actors and business leaders? Collaborative and thoughtful leadership among private, public, and non-profit sectors will lead us back to a faster economic recovery. 

John Winchester is the Executive Director of the Northwest branch of the YMCA of Southern Arizona, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the quality of human life. He has received several recognitions for his work in the community and was named one of Tucson’s 40 under 40 by the Arizona Daily Star and the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 2016. He is a Flinn-Brown Fellow through the Arizona Civic Leadership Academy and is a member of the Emerging Leaders Council though the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Arizona..