Romer: Collaboration is key to reopen the economy
While COVID-19 presents an ongoing threat to the community, we have been able to create behavior modification and hygiene protocols that help to limit its spread. Our attention now must pivot to a greater threat — our urgent need to begin to restart the local economy — that has unraveled to an alarming degree.
Eagle County is not an island to itself and will need to consider its recovery plans in the context of the greater mountain regional economy in which it exists. Continued coordination with the government and public-private organizations that bring together and share resources, strategies, and information will be critical to our ability to rebuild business activity necessary to support our residents and community needs.
Business leaders, along with government health leaders, are working to provide a responsible solution for providing consumer safety, and perhaps most importantly, provide consumers with the confidence that businesses here fully understand this new imperative. We need to learn how to live with COVID-19.
Our local work in the context of the phased reopening/recovery model is promulgated by the Eagle County ESF-14 task force and informed by the private industry task force groups developed by Vail Valley Foundation.
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Our recommended recovery model defines a series of phases to align with Eagle County recovery efforts and the transition trail map and which include:
- Relief (Green on the transition trail map)
- Reopening (Green/Blue)
- Recovery Reinvention (Black)
- Resilience (ongoing)
Government leaders and public health officials will make decisions and issue guidance on when we can continue to reopen our economy, but truly regaining some semblance of normalcy will be determined by how people feel and what motivates them to act or not act.
The community will ultimately decide how we move through the trail map based on how serious we take the five commitments of containment outlined by Eagle County:
- Maintain 6 feet of distance from people outside of your household at all times.
- Wash hands frequently.
- Cover your face when you’re out in public.
- Stay home when you’re sick.
- If you’re sick, get tested immediately.
Businesses must prepare and should be ready to implement strategies to protect their workforce from coronavirus while ensuring continuity of operations and people must feel safe to venture back out into workplaces, entertainment venues, and places of worship. They must have confidence that our economy and their own finances will eventually recover to help drive the demand needed to restore growth.
Consumers want physical, visual assurances that places of business are safe. These might include placing hand sanitizer in a prominent place, having employees cleaning, showing a visible plan of action to protect customers and employees, and a certification from local health officials that the business is abiding by recommendations.
Consumers maintain considerable optimism and pent-up demand for goods or services that have become limited or unavailable in the pandemic. When we reopen, businesses must seize that opportunity.
Customer expectations may significantly, and permanently, change (e.g. greater demand for online and contact-free services). We must be ready to meet new demands and expectations in the post-COVID environment.
Eagle County has the opportunity to be a role model for the nation in how to reopen our economy, but it will take collaboration amongst business, government, and an increased sense of personal responsibility to get us there. This will allow us to move quickly through the transition phases and accelerate the timeline to reopening our economy and getting our citizens back to work.
Chris Romer is president and CEO of the Vail Valley Partnership, the regional chamber of commerce. Learn more at www.vailvalleypartnership.com.
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