With signs that the worst of the coronavirus pandemic may finally be receding into our rearview mirror, it’s time to focus our attention on restarting North Carolina’s economy. But where do we start on the roadmap to recovery? Certainly, we don’t want to do anything to fuel the second wave of potentially more severe infections or mortality. However, we need to recognize the catastrophic economic hardship inflicted on businesses and workers. A slow road into a recession is one thing. It’s different to go from a record low unemployment rate to slamming on the brakes and losing 36 million jobs in just a few weeks. The value of a typical 401(k) plan has fallen by 19% in just the first quarter of 2020 (with additional losses expected in the second quarter). The bottom line is the United States and its citizens must get working again as soon as possible.
I believe that North Carolina can move safely forward by taking these steps:
• Promote and encourage both customers and businesses to buy local and to encourage locally owned and operated companies
Time is critical and we need to step on the gas to pick up the pace for local businesses to recall furloughed staff, rehire terminated employees and increase the workforce. The increase in momentum will continue to encourage the unbelievable bond of community spirit and comradery demonstrated since the beginning of the crisis. I am a native of North Carolina with strong roots in the old North State. I can honestly say that I have never been more honored by my neighbors and fellow North Carolinians than I have at this point in history. We must continue encouraging this community pride and spirit so that it expands into our economy and inspires future financial decisions.
• Encourage industries both large and small to embrace cloud-based work options, telecommunications and other tools available
Social distancing standards will, no doubt, be a part of our day-to-day routine for the next several months, and perhaps years to come. The result will place a lot of pressure on companies in North Carolina (and across our nation) to shift as much work as reasonable to remote workers. Keeping this portion of the workforce safely at home will allow those who must commute to a dedicated workspace to operate at a safe distance.
How do we make this work? We need to support, educate, and perhaps reward businesses with incentives to fast-track remote working telecommunication solutions supporting their employees. Operating in the world of cloud-based phone systems, I can testify first-hand to just how powerful a tool it is for working remotely. Other considerations include virtual private network (VPN) technology, software to manage video conferencing, collaboration and task management as well as data backup/recovery, and cybersecurity.
• Continue enforcing stay-at-home orders where required
NC Governor Roy Cooper has authorized counties to utilize stay-at-home rules that reflect the particular dynamics and aspects of their respective jurisdictions. Being a business leader, I think we must act according to current reliable, and relevant information. That may mean allowing flexibility in some local areas while implementing more stringent rules in others. We, as leaders in business and the community need to support local officials’ efforts to keep all citizens safe.
• Set an example as part of the public health solution
This last part of the equation is crucial for guaranteeing that we don’t take one step forward and two steps back. We must be vigilant to be part of the public health solution. Yes, we are all excited and eager to have cookouts and parties with family and friends or public gatherings, and to emerge from our unwanted and unwelcome forced hibernation. But we must proceed in a logical fashion supported by the information we have, such as flattening the curve and reducing the number of new cases and hospitalizations every day.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance for businesses to implement remote working, not only from an economical aspect, but also from a health standpoint keeping workers, families, and communities safer.
The Road Ahead
The transformation into the post-pandemic new normal will be a challenge, with some bumps in the road along the way. But I am confident that our nation will emerge triumphantly, and North Carolina will be one of the states guiding the way. There is no obstacle we cannot surpass and no task we cannot accomplish when we work together and support one another. We are on this journey together. And together we will arrive at a better, more secure future.