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Getting Ready for Getting Back

Impact & Advocacy , Events & Programs , Local Stories , Chamber Updates
April 18 2020

Good morning,

First and foremost, I hope this letter finds you safe and practicing all the appropriate protocols. As I’ve noted in all of these letters, your personal health and your commitment to following appropriate protocols is the single most important thing you can do to help our community get through this crisis.

Secondly, I want to offer my heartfelt thanks to all those people who are working day-in and day-out to keep our County functioning, to keep our economy moving, and to provide for our health and safety. Please show your respect for the work they are all doing by finding a way to thank them.

For this latest commentary, I am compelled to share what I see.  I appreciate the honor that my “seat” in our community gives me to participate in a host of conversations, interact with many elected officials and hear a lot of feedback from businesses. It’s with that lens that I write today’s letter. 

This pandemic is tough, draining, and complex. I have no doubt it is impacting absolutely everyone on a personal and/or business level.

Personally for me, as an example, I am struck when I realize that I have a mother in a retirement community that I worry about on a daily basis; I have an entrepreneur daughter-in-law who owns a business that has been shuttered, leaving her to navigate the challenges of charting a path toward a return to work; my son had to postpone his much-anticipated May 9 wedding; and I have a beautiful new grand-daughter born in late January who we’ve only been able to enjoy from a distance (despite living less than a mile away!); and, to be clear, I miss my other grandchildren as well!

On a professional level, I’ve had to deal with implementing really tough furlough decisions with some really wonderful people; the Chamber team has had to prepare for new protocols for our building and workspace, while adjusting to remote work; and, we’ve had to completely re-think and adjust our value proposition, our delivery of service to members, our budget, and our overall plans for the remainder of the year (and, frankly, beyond).

All of it hard work. All of it fraught with varying emotions.

And, I realize that these adjustments, disappointments, hardships and, in fact, opportunities, are being replicated by 540,000 people and within 13,000 businesses throughout Lancaster County.  Fact is, seismic change is everywhere.

But, to little surprise, people and businesses are finding a way to persevere. They are acknowledging reality and they are planning accordingly. And most remain cautiously optimistic for the future both personally and professionally.  We want to encourage that; we want to celebrate that.

Yet, it’s the timeline and the new-normal of that “future” that looms the largest in everyone’s mind. 

From where I sit, each week this pandemic has evoked a unique theme and this past week has found most of my conversations centered on preparing for recovery.  We’ve seen a plan from the Trump Administration, we’ve seen a plan from the Wolf Administration and, the Lancaster Chamber has partnered with the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County in working with our elected officials and various partners to develop the framework of a plan to help manage our County’s return to a new-normal.

The local plan (still in a draft format) focuses on four phases:  Getting Financial Aid to Businesses (immediate-term); Get Back to “New Normal” (short-term); Segment and Scale Efforts (medium-term); Measure Progress (short-to-long-term) and, for all intents and purposes, it’s a linear path wherein each phase builds on the one before it.

Currently, we are full-on with the first phase as government, foundation and privately-funded efforts are being developed and deployed to offer help. As I always note, please check with your banker and/or accountant to make sure you are taking full advantage of the evolving array of programs that might be able to help your business. And, please check our website regularly for the latest information and opportunity. 

Now, the shift to phase two, “Getting Back” is starting to take center stage.  And, rest assured, this phase will be equally complex, if not more so, for your business and our community.

For starters, earlier this week, Governor Wolf issued an order establishing a host of business/workplace guidelines. Simply put, “Getting Back” will require every business to think differently about your workforce, your workspace, your HR policies and work schedules, the way you do business, how you manage sales & marketing and much, much more. Again, it will be a seismic change for most businesses.

For those of you who might have thought “getting back” meant turning on the lights and getting back to business as usual, it is now crystal clear that won’t be the case.  Every business —again, every business—will need to assess their role in this new normal and in assuring their workforce and workplace safety. Please know, the Chamber will be offering upcoming webinars specifically developed to review these issues.

On a broader, community-wide level, the road to “Getting Back” is even more complex.  Fact is, the issue that looms largest in my mind in our entire recovery effort is in our community’s ability to manage and mitigate the public health component of our new normal.  From testing to contact tracing; from temperature checks to personal protective equipment (PPE) distribution; and from public social distancing protocols to the likely onslaught of new rules and regulations, it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL (and, yes, I am yelling as I write this!) that we get this phase of recovery right. 

Sure, we all want to bring this economy back as quickly as possible. But, the one thing I am also sure we all believe is that we don’t want to do it wrong and, worse yet, go through this all over again.

Make no mistake about it, the “Getting Back” phase will require a tremendous commitment by business.  You will be asked to provide for your employees health and wellness like never before and it will surely have an impact on business-as usual.  However, the “Getting Back” phase will also require a tremendous commitment by our governments (federal, state, county and municipal), as they will ultimately be responsible for ensuring public safety.

This is undoubtedly a daunting task.  It is one that I believe will mark the difference between a community that emerges from this successfully and a community that struggles to find a way. 

The Lancaster Chamber is committed to ensuring Lancaster County is the former.  And, we have good reason to be encouraged. 

Never in my twenty years at the Chamber have I been witness to a more collaborative spirit among governments, organizations, healthcare systems and businesses.  Never have I found more inspiration in the work that has come about through unique and innovative partnerships.  And never have I have I been more grateful to call Lancaster County my home. 

This is the can-do spirit that continues to define Lancaster County’s approach to this pandemic.  And, this is the same spirit that will lead us out of it.

But, again, it won’t be easy.  It requires challenging conversations and difficult decisions; it requires holding people, businesses and governments accountable to do their part; and it requires an absolute resolve toward our prosperous future.

Let’s get going, Lancaster. Let’s address Phase Two head-on with all the reality, practicality and resolve it demands. And let’s get about the job of getting back to work, responsibly, and all together.

Finally, please keep doing the part that only you can do:  wash your hands, practice social distancing, and, by all means, Think Local.  These steps are the simplest, most generous things you can do at the moment.

With Resolve -

Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber


Explore our upcoming webinars and listen to past sessions here. If you have any questions about registering for virtual events or participating in these webinars, please reach out to register@lancasterchamber.com. 

Keep checking www.lancasterchamber.com/coronavirus daily for updated information and resources. 

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