Time to find the balance

May 13, 2020Doug Peters, President and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

Dear Member –

These unprecedented times related to COVID-19 have been challenging. Our economy is hurting, and so are our members.

Your Chamber has done a lot of listening over the last eight weeks. We’ve listened as fear gripped our business community, and we’ve listened recently as local business owners begin to feel their livelihood slipping away.

Neither have been easy, and there wasn’t much the Chamber could do about the first issue except to try to absorb some of the shock as best we could.

However, there is something we can do about the carnage our local economy is experiencing.

I am writing to encourage you to get out and support local. Buy local. And shop your fellow Chamber members first. This situation is not going away as quickly as we would hope and meanwhile, our local business community is bleeding.

Before you assume that I’m suggesting that we rip off the Band-Aid and throw caution to the wind, I’m not. There is a place for caution in this pandemic.

But, for the last eight weeks, our minds have become conditioned that we are now in an unsafe environment. We are surrounded by those who may believe that leaving the safety of our homes is reckless for ourselves and others. For those who believe that, we understand. Please be where you are most comfortable. People should reenter and engage in the economy when they’re ready.

But I encourage you to think of this – small operators are every bit as safe as the big boxes and the chains. Perhaps even more so, based on density. And, what happens to our community if our local businesses begin to shut their doors because now in their time of need, we as a community didn’t come together to support them?

As critical thinkers, we need to find the balance between safety and commerce. Between lives and livelihoods. Our community depends on it. Our future as an economy depends on it.

Members, we have work to do. We have businesses to run. And we have businesses to support. While we can’t remove risk from everyone’s life, we can mitigate it. And collectively, we have. There are new, enhanced regulatory restrictions on just about every business under the sun. I’d bet most are safer today than before we heard the word Coronovirus. Sure, there are those among us who should not expose themselves to these risks. We know, accept and encourage that they remain safe and healthy.

I’ve visited or spoken with 71 member businesses personally since April 15. Mostly I wore my mask, but other times I didn’t. I didn’t feel unsafe. I kept my distance, I washed my hands, and I coughed into my elbow (thank you Texas allergies!). And, I saw every single one of those businesses adjust to accommodate their customer base.

The thinking that “essential businesses are safe,” and “non-essential businesses” are “unsafe” has to end.

I’ve heard the same, consistent story nearly everywhere I’ve gone. Two months of revenue gone. Recovery likely 10 years away. Payroll Protection Program only goes so far. People’s livelihoods are at stake. And then there was one question that I found particularly compelling – “how do we turn off the noise and accept that it’s okay to continue commerce particularly with enhanced regulation and the proper precautions?”

Again, don’t misinterpret my message here. If you’re concerned, stay home. If you’re at-risk, stay home. But, for those who can manage the risk, it’s time to get back to supporting local businesses. Our friends depend on it.

Thank you,




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