As I write this, there are 1,328 confirmed coronavirus cases in Michigan and 33,404 in the United States. By the time this column goes to print, those numbers will be considerably higher. That’s how fast things are moving.
Like many of you, the outbreak is unlike anything I have ever seen before. It’s changing the way people live their lives. And – with wary customers and COVID 19-related restrictions – it’s having a significant impact on businesses, forcing them to adapt, too.
While Governor Whitmer’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” Executive Order is necessary in keeping our state safe and healthy, we know these temporary measures will be increasingly difficult for businesses and entrepreneurs impacted by the outbreak. There are grant and loan programs – such as the Michigan Small Business Relief Program and the U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan – that will provide some relief to our businesses and entrepreneurs impacted by the outbreak. However, for these businesses to bounce back after taking such a hard hit, they also need the support of their communities and customers.
So, these next few weeks, I implore you to seek out opportunities to support local businesses and their employees. As you observe the social distancing guidelines set in place by the State of Michigan and Centers for Disease Prevention & Control, visit the websites of your favorite businesses and stock up on gift cards. If you’ve been planning an event that needs to be cancelled or postponed, think twice before asking for a refund. Likewise, consider paying ahead for service appointments you have in the coming months, including those you will miss.
The most effective way we can slow the outbreak is to stay home, leaving only for essentials like food and medications. Should you need a meal while you’re out, there are many restaurants with delivery and take-out services available.
Collectively, our community support could make the difference in whether some of these businesses are still open in a year, or even six months from now. And considering the important role that small businesses play in our local economy, employing our families and neighbors and bringing vitality into our communities, we should do all we can to keep them in operation.
If you’re unsure where to start, visit flintandgenesee.org/supportlocal. There, you will find a collection of social media posts highlighting how businesses are adapting to life during a pandemic. This includes updated hours of operation and other changes. If you own or work for a business with a promotion or news to share, use the hashtag #supportflintgenesee to have your content posted to this page. Additionally, businesses can find resources being offered by others in the business community at flintandgenesee.org/coronavirus.
Looking forward, it’s difficult to know how things are going to play out. But what I do know is that no one person or entity can beat this pandemic alone, it will take all of us working together.
— Tim Herman is the CEO of the Flint
& Genesee Chamber of Commerce.