Guest Opinion: Minnesota Gov. Walz, where is the plan?
Small businesses have absolutely earned the right to demand clarity, and they need time to prepare. This includes hiring employees, securing inventory, preparing facilities, and planning their own events. It is not fair to keep them in limbo any longer.
Dear Gov. Walz,
On behalf of 1,500-plus members in the Brainerd lakes area, we want to convey our appreciation for your recent announcement to loosen COVID-related business restrictions. While we are relieved about the progress, it is simply not enough.
Throughout this crisis, Minnesota’s small businesses and chambers of commerce have consistently called for one simple courtesy - a plan.
Gov. Walz, where is your plan?
It has been exactly one year since you enacted Minnesota’s first business closures, followed by off-and-on restrictions that have been dizzying and expensive. Each decision was expressly designed to “flatten the curve,” prevent a surge of hospitalizations, build testing capacity and buy time for vaccinations.
More than 100 executive orders later, our small businesses have made the tremendous sacrifices you have asked of them.
They have absorbed untold debt with an uncertain future. Some watched on the sidelines while other industries thrived, or their customers took their business to other states. They have shouldered almost the entire responsibility for ensuring and enforcing public safety under the constant threat of government fines and license revocations.
They have endured the gut-wrenching experience of laying off employees, some multiple times, even right before Christmas.
Some were forced out of business completely, and some are now teetering on the brink.
With our summer tourism season quickly approaching, we are gravely concerned. Seasonal businesses in our area can earn 75% or more of their annual income in just three short months. In 2020, we reaped the unexpected benefits of an extended fall season largely due to remote workers spending a few extra vacation days as their children participated in distance learning.
That made up for some of the early summer losses, but that won’t happen this year.
We cannot stress enough the critical importance of full reopening as soon as possible, especially before we welcome most of our visitors again.
Events are also vital. They drive commerce and build community. Our economic success is tied to the ability to confidently plan and host these events, many of which are outdoors.
Small businesses have absolutely earned the right to demand clarity, and they need time to prepare. This includes hiring employees, securing inventory, preparing facilities and planning their own events.
It is not fair to keep them in limbo any longer.
While we realize that we cannot and should not declare victory over COVID-19 at this time, it is reasonable to expect a definitive reopening plan and timeline tied to scientific metrics such as positive cases, hospitalizations and vaccinations.
We need a plan. Please accelerate your efforts to present one.
Matt Kilian is president of Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Cindy Myogeto is director of Crosslake Chamber of Commerce, Brielle Bredsten is executive director of Cuyuna Lakes Chamber of Commerce, Pam Dorion is president of Nisswa Chamber of Commerce and Katie Wassermann is director of Pequot Lakes Chamber of Commerce.