By Chris Clark, President & CEO, Georgia Chamber of Commerce
April 1, 2020 - Our daily news feeds overwhelm us with statistics, predictions and partisanship at every turn. Anxiety and worry consume many of our friends and neighbors. We pour over our ledger sheets as we check in on customers and clients. However, in this temporarily chaotic time, we want to recognize the incredible sacrifice and leadership borne out of this crisis and recommend a few ways for how we all can rise to the challenge.
Let’s begin at the front-line with our healthcare teams. All over the state hospital employees are working around the clock to save the lives of our friends and family. They’re underappreciated and overworked but their dedication remains.
We have already seen that the heroics stretch far beyond those on the front lines. Georgia farmers are still harvesting and planting in order to feed our growing state. CSX, Norfolk Southern, Sandersville Railroad, truck drivers and Georgia-headquartered UPS and Delta are delivering emergency equipment to hospitals and distribution centers around the world.
The Georgia Ports and our logistics workers don’t take time off as they unload ships, stock warehouses and store shelves. Our medical tests are still being processed by lab techs around the state. Publix and Kroger cashiers are still smiling and encouraging customers as they purchase goods to feed their families. Our national and local pharmacies are working overtime under incredible stress. Manufacturers like the members of our affiliate, NextGen Manufacturing, mining companies and chemical firms are finding new ways to protect employers and produce the goods we need to survive and thrive.
Through storms and pollen clouds, our linemen and utility providers keep the power on in our homes. Our virtual meetings work because the internet, cell, cable and phone service companies are working 24/7 to keep the lines of communication open for the world.
We’ve seen Georgia brewers like Anheuser Busch, Molson-Coors, Good Word Brewing Company and Pretoria Fields switch production to sanitizer and bottled water. The Georgia National Guard is taking on new responsibilities around the state. Cyber security firms like Switch are protecting our data and our banks and financial services like Global Payments and Fiserv are providing loans and protecting our transactions. At every turn, Georgia businesses are showing real leadership.
We have also seen the best from our elected leaders. Governor Kemp, Lt. Governor Duncan, Speaker Ralston, our U.S. Senators and House Representatives, State House members and Senators, mayors and county commissioners, school superintendents and so many others are managing an ever-changing landscape hour by hour with steady hands. These men and women are all working across party lines to flatten the curve and mitigate long-term negative impact.
Throughout the crisis, the Georgia Chamber has worked with healthcare leaders, government and the private sector to provide relevant and timely information to support these heroic efforts to address this pandemic and lay the foundation for regained prosperity.
We believe in the direct correlation between the medical and economic crises, supporting the facts that the two go together and must equally be solved in tandem. Keeping Georgians fed, healthy and employed with a focus on the sustainability of our economy and health infrastructure during this time is exactly how we accomplish that goal.
There are of course even more things that companies can do to flatten the curve and prepare for the recovery. Here are a few ways in which we can all engage in Covid-19 response:
Lead by Example. Follow the CDC social distancing guidelines and the Department of Health’s recommendations for the safety and well-being of Georgians during this pandemic. Understand the ordinances and orders that have been temporarily enacted in our local communities and make decisions for our families and businesses based on the facts.
Utilize Online Resources. The Georgia Chamber has created gachamber.com/covid19 where information, financial programs, resources and the latest in government and private sector support can be found. You’ll find the most up-to-date information from the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program, the Georgia Dept. of Labor’s Expanded Rules and Regulations for Unemployment Benefits, CISA guidelines for qualifying “essential businesses”, Governor Kemp’s latest updates and much more.
Remember the Personal Connection. In this growing sterile environment, we must not lose sight of the importance of relationships. My family and I are members of Dogwood Church but attending service isn’t an option right now. Last week, however, I received a call from our pastor, just checking in on the well-being of our family. That meant the world. The Georgia Chamber encourages everyone to do the same. We have already made over 1,000 personal calls to members and will continue to do so. There’s power and promise in sincerity and simple acts of selfless and thoughtful connection.
Support Small Business. While every business in Georgia is suffering, it’s important to remember that most small businesses have less than 45 days of operating capital. Our collective support through online shopping, purchasing gift cards and shopping local could be make the difference in their long-term economic survival.
As we focus on this global challenge and the obstacles we face today, let’s remember those that aren’t allowed to shelter in place or work from home. Let’s remember our elected leaders in our prayers. Let’s provide for the care and wellbeing of clients, customers and team members. We know that “what we do in life, echoes in eternity.” I would offer up that there are no truer words for this present time. The Georgia Chamber will continue to support its businesses and our state as we weather this storm and prepare for an expeditious and prosperous recovery.
To learn more about how you can help, visit www.gachamber.com/covid19.