Moving Forward



May 1, 2020

jordan-roadEven before Governor Ducey’s announcement about next steps in dealing with the pandemic, the Chamber was working with the state task force on restoring Arizona’s tourism industry and responding to the governor’s request for input on safely re-starting the economy.

We are also gathering ideas and input from a local tourism economic recovery group, positioning Sedona for the eventual resumption of travel that will bring back desperately needed revenue for our workers, businesses and municipal public services.

We continue to manage the enormous flow of information on government business-assistance programs. The pace is hectic. In one seven-day period last week, SBA emergency funds ran dry while many Sedona businesses were waiting to hear about their applications or receive approved loans; the Senate passed a $484 billion bill to replenish the funds; the House voted to approve the measure; the President signed it into law, and SBA loans began moving again – with billions specifically targeted to banks in smaller communities to assure they have the funds to lend.

Outside of constantly updating our business web page, sending email bulletins, sponsoring online workshops and more, we are helping facilitate a discussion of a rational, prudent Sedona recovery/reopening program.

The time has come to focus on plans instead of positions. Sedona does not face a choice between saving lives and saving the economy. The question is complex but can be stated simply:  how does Sedona balance the risk to health versus the risk to livelihoods?

One underappreciated factor:  the financial stress of shutting down the economy is itself a health crisis waiting to happen. An increase in heart attacks, strokes, cancers, depression, suicide, divorce and domestic violence can all be correlated with economic downturns, in this case worsened by enforced social isolation and self-quarantine. Smoking, alcoholism, obesity, child and substance abuse also increase when times are hard. Staying as we are is not a long-term option.

We need to discuss what Sedona’s “new normal” is going to look like – even if we cannot predict how long it will persist. Already, contours are emerging in communities around the nation  – restaurants that limit seating and keep tables far apart; retail outlets that strictly enforce social distancing by establishing a low maximum occupancy; stringent workplace regulations regarding hand washing, use of masks, and distancing; increased public education that emphasizes our personal responsibilities and obligations.

We know firsthand that Sedona businesses are ready and willing to implement practices such as these – doing their part to safeguard their employees, themselves, their families and their customers. Incredibly, a few voices claim this means “putting profits before people,” a foolish assertion blind to the fact that business operators and their employees are Sedonans, too. We all share in whatever comes next. We will find a way to move forward together.

Let’s remember that once the coronavirus becomes more manageable – when testing becomes generally available and a vaccine is developed and widely distributed – the economic repercussions will still be with us. More than ever, our Sedona workers will rely on your support for the businesses that provide their livelihoods. Please give them your most thoughtful consideration. It will define how we shape tomorrow.

                                                                                                   –Jennifer Wesselhoff, President/CEO