Continue to Commerce

May 18, 2020Doug Peters, President and CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

You may have noticed a subtle shift in the messaging coming from your Chamber lately.

For sure, we’ve been focused for the last eight weeks on collecting, processing, verifying and disseminating information to assist you in your business decision-making.

Over the last week, and consistent with the Governor’s Order, we’ve made the transition from “search and rescue” to “recovery.” That doesn’t mean we won’t be providing you timely, verified information. But, you will see more about getting back after it, doing so safely, and encouraging the public to shop Chamber members first.

No one could’ve imagined just a few short months ago that Abilene, Texas, or anywhere else would be in this predicament. We were settled in together enjoying a robust economy, planning the future and then – wham! Few saw it coming. In fact, very few of us remember anything like this ever happening before.

For the last eight weeks, we’ve had fear pounded into our heads by just about every imaginable source. I’m not making light of it. It was a scary time. Still is, but to a lesser degree. We were forced to act quickly on emerging information, much of which wasn’t information at all – but speculation and forecasts. We had to weed out the politics and the partisanship at the highest levels and hope that common sense would prevail. But we still had to make decisions. And have decisions made for us. And not all of us agreed.

I’ve watched as employees of long-standing members have gone home out of fear or lack of business. People have had money thrown at them (and admittedly for some, not enough) to help make ends meet. I’ve heard complaints and praise for extended unemployment benefits – and suggestions that the extended period and increased payment were disincentives for our workforce to return to work.

But do you know what?

That’s all behind us, for the most part. And we should all hope and pray that as we inch forward into recovery we’re not hit up side the head with some other mega-weird crisis. We just don’t have the stomach for it.

Instead, your Chamber, capably driven by our members, has made the decision to encourage our community to return to commerce. Not in an irresponsible way, mind you. But rather to look for and find a balance between living our lives and protecting our health.

There are those among us who have underlying health issues – or have a loved one with those issues – and they need to remain vigilant. There are some who may not feel comfortable venturing out. And that’s okay. No one wants anyone to risk their health or compromise their comfort level.

But for those of us who are in good health, let’s proceed. For those of us who have the confidence to conduct business, we need to do so. For those of us who understand the risks and the counter-measures suggested to protect ourselves, there is a small business community among our city that needs our help. And it’s going to take all of us to get this train back on the tracks. Businesses – our economy – are literally dying on the vine.

The health of your business is important to the Chamber. We’ve worked to keep our finger on the pulse of your company since this situation began. We’ve surveyed, made phone calls, visited personally and listened hard. And your feedback hasn’t fallen on deaf ears. We have collected the information you’ve provided and we’ve communicated it back in one unified voice to all levels of government. We’ve made our own organizational adjustments based on what you’ve told us. Abilene business has been heard, loud and clear.

We can’t stop that information flow now. The recovery may indeed be the most critical time in this crisis. Today, your Chamber will issue a comprehensive business survey that will give us much needed information that is used – anonymously – to communicate the severity of this crisis’ impact on your business. Please look for it and take the time to share your perspective and your position.

And so with that, I encourage all of us to do our respective parts to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and to mindfully begin the process of getting back to business.  Put the COVID-19 Compliant Business Partner Pledge logo on your business’ door, on your social media pages and your website.  It tells the community that you’ve taken the precautions necessary to protect them.  That eases their apprehension.  And over time, God willing, it will help to build the level of confidence required to slam the door on this and get on with getting back to better.





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