Certain phrases are quickly fatiguing as we continue to combat the “unprecedented” and “challenging” COVID-19 pandemic. The one phrase that really sinks in is “the new normal.” Lives and livelihoods have been upended; this is anything but normal.
After assisting countless businesses over the last month, the Chamber has come to understand that the chief concern for businesses across our region is uncertainty. Recently, Arthur Brooks, Professor of Public Leadership at the Harvard, noted that uncertainty differs from risk. Risk is the possibility of bad outcomes. Those outcomes are known, and the probabilities are known. With uncertainty, the bad outcomes and probabilities aren’t understood.
We are certainly uncertain about COVID-19. The best way to deal with uncertainty, is to move forward and use each day to its fullest as we work together to make a difference. It has been inspiring to see our business community do just that.
Brewers and distillers alike have transitioned operations to produce hand sanitizer for those in need. A small stationery and branding company, Oh, Hello Co. is working day and night to make ear savers for first responders suffering from the effects of mask protection. Restaurants are continuously innovating to survive, by transitioning to carry-out and delivery only procedures. Our heroes in health care, transportation, grocery service and sanitation are living on the front lines and our business community continues to step up in order to confront and battle COVID-19.
This is West Michigan, a community built on the backbone of entrepreneurship and small business. At the Grand Rapids Chamber, we know that many have been impacted and are working to endure the effects of COVID-19. We hear your stories and continue to address the uncertainty of the situation by connecting business leaders with the resources and experts they need.
On a resource front, government support is coming, albeit gradual. In response, our team has initiated a Rapid Response Economic Relief Fund through the Greater Grand Rapids Chamber Foundation to deliver short-term financial support to small businesses in Kent County, now. Checks are already en route, and in hand, but the demand is enormous. We need the rest of the business community to rally. If you are able, we need your help. Please consider contributing to the fund by visiting www.grchamberfoundation.org.
Another way we are working to address uncertainty is by influencing policy. The Chamber is working with policymakers to ensure that we are prepared for an economic restart when the public health state permits. Built on a framework based upon geographic and activity-based risk, we believe early and deliberate planning now on how to safely unwind restrictions will help mitigate the economic devastation caused by the pandemic in the future. We must cultivate pathways for regions where the curve has flattened, to responsibly reopen. We need to rebuild our economy as quickly, and as safely as possible.
We do not know what the future will bring. What we do know is how proud we are to be a part of the West Michigan business community. The collaborative spirit and work ethic of our community will continue to help guide us forward into a brighter future, together.
Rick Baker is president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.