Seattle business leaders support governor’s cautious reopening strategy after coronavirus lockdown

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Empty and boarded up buildings

This article was originally published by The Seattle Times on April 22, 2020.

Seattle’s business leaders voiced support Wednesday for Gov. Jay Inslee’s cautious approach to  reopening the state’s economy, while saying the business community should play a key role in crafting policies.

“Our state has shown remarkable progress in bending the curve,” said Markham McIntyre, executive vice president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. “Now, we need to direct the same level of focus to a smart and safe reopening and recovery.”

Inslee, in televised remarks Tuesday, unveiled a roadmap that soon could allow return of some elective surgeries, outdoor recreation and certain construction projects, as long as progress continues in the fight against COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.  Other restrictions, such as social distancing, would remain in place under the stay-at-home order set to expire May 4.

Jon Scholes, president and CEO of the Downtown Seattle Association, endorsed these moves.  “We should look at allowing specific sectors that pose minimal health and safety risks to move forward with clear guidelines,” Scholes said, adding that this will mean fewer people will need unemployment benefits and economic activity will increase.

But Scholes cautioned against developing tailored requirements for every industry and work environment.

“That will take too long, and delay recovery,” he said.  “We should develop principles and performance standards that employers should then be required to meet.”

McIntyre said it will take equal ingenuity and determination to rebuild the economy.

“There is an opportunity and a responsibility for the private sector to lead the conversation on how we reopen, which is critical to decision-making about when different workplaces can reopen.”

He said the Chamber would collaborate with federal, state and local officials.

The Chamber, which represents large and small businesses around the region, is working on ideas that it hopes can support a public-private partnership to safely grow the economy, said Alicia Teel, the organization’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Scholes, in his comments, said, “Just as when you are a patient in the hospital following a major procedure, you of course want to get out as fast as you can and get home. But we don’t want to put ourselves in a situation of leaving too soon only to have to return.”

He said the community can’t afford a second economic shutdown.

“We need to be smart and prudent in how we proceed.”