OpEd: What is the Best Way to Restart the Economy?

May 2, 2020

Submitted by the Bedford Chamber of Commerce

We are very pleased with the outpouring of support Bedford residents have shown for Bedford area businesses. Thank You!

Along with providing needed goods and services, Bedford area businesses play a large role in the community. In addition to providing jobs for residents and providing tax revenue for the town, businesses are very involved in the region. Whether it’s providing volunteers to clean up roadside litter, fundraising for Bedford Schools, or making donations to the Bedford Food Bank, our businesses play a critical role in our town. In fact, many of our local life science companies are actively involved in the diagnostics and treatment of many illnesses that affect our community and the world.

With the pandemic, many of our businesses have closed down, while others, deemed essential, are operating with a skeleton crew. This has had a horrible impact on their workers, the business owners, and the community as purchasers of their goods and services. Some of us are lucky to be able to work relatively comfortably from home and still get a paycheck. But many of our businesses have been hit hard. While a lot of the media coverage has focused on the retail industry, the impact goes beyond to other businesses such as light manufacturing. Many business owners have invested years of their time and money in their business and they are now in danger of seeing it all disappear.

We all want our businesses to re-open as soon as possible. The Bedford Area Chamber position is this should happen in a safe manner consistent with the guidelines from the Center for Disease Control as well as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We must apply the use of science and assess risks in our decision making.

Even after getting the green light to open, it will take time for businesses to get ready, employees to come back and for customers to interact again. Some businesses will not be able to get open right away.

This pandemic has been and will continue to be devastating to the economy. While we can’t prevent all the damage to the economy, like the virus there are proactive and reactive steps (vaccines and treatments) we can take to mitigate the damage. We need help from both the town and its residents.

Since there is still a lot we don’t know about this virus, dates, and guidelines can quickly change. We need to remain in a position to be able to respond to these changes as quickly as possible. For example, scientists may soon be able to confirm that the high percentage of people with antibodies from the virus confers immunity. This would have a major impact on decision making.

So with all these challenges, what can we do:

  1. Be prepared. We need to start preparing now. Getting updated guidance to businesses and towns as far in advance as possible.
  2. Be fair. If Walmart and other chain stores in Massachusetts can sell toys why can’t a local Bedford store? Why punish small business?
  3. Be Nimble. New regulations and permits might be required. While we want to make sure businesses comply with the rules, we don’t want them to have to wait 30 days for a hearing or make them jump through unnecessary hoops.
  4. Be Innovative. Americans are both creative and clever and we will find new ways to get things done. We need local and state governments to enable businesses to try new ideas as long as they are done in a safe matter. For example, when we get to the point when we start to think about opening restaurants, we will most likely start with reduced capacity. The first phase and most likely safest way to start is with outdoor dining. So one thing we can do is permit restaurants to expand their outdoor dining by taking over a few nearby parking spaces. This enables customers to be more spread out while restaurants do more business in a safe manner.

No matter what we do, this is going to be challenging. There are no easy choices. Everything we do has a cost. When we are looking at a course of action, we need to consider both the benefits and the costs. Looking at just the benefits is as reckless as looking at just the costs.

Moving forward takes courage. To quote Eleanor Roosevelt; “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

We can and must all do this together.

We want to get more input from the community. We’d love your ideas, energy, and personal efforts to help us ALL recover.  Contact Bedford Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Pete Bagley [email protected]

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