Page 38 - BusinessWest July 6, 2020
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 honest, I think the events going on down south persuaded most people that slow and safe is still the best way to do all this.”
He conceded that many AIM members are manufacturers, and they were able to return
to work in phase 1 — and many were deemed essential workers from the start and never shut down operations. That partly explains why their business confidence has been slightly higher than non-manufacturers.
“The numbers are fairly optimistic, and I think the most important thing right now is confidence. That’s what’s going to help those businesses bounce back.”
“They were, in fact, dealing with issues of workplace safety right along — processes like how to create six-feet separation, sanitize com- mon areas, and monitor the health of people coming in,” he said. “This is something they’ve had a lot of experience with. For our group of manufacturers, it’s been a fairly smooth process.”
All Eyes on the Numbers
That said, Geehern noted that if COVID-19 cases began spiking and the governor paused or slowed the reopening, business confidence would clearly suffer.
“It’s still volatile and changeable, but I think it’s fair to say companies in general are satisfied with the pace of the rollout. Believe me, every employer in Massachusetts wishes Governor Baker could wave a magic wand and everything would go back to the way it was, but everyone knows that’s not the case.”
How schools handle students’ return this fall — and what that does to the child-care picture — is a factor as well, he said. “There are a bunch of different elements to the whole picture. They’ll all eventually become clear.”
Part of that clarity is the sad reality that some businesses will be left behind. According to one AIM survey, slightly more than half of companies that furloughed employees will want them all to return when they’re able to bring them back, but some said they won’t be taking any of them back, because they’re planning on going out of busi- ness or running a skeleton staff for a while.
“It’s going to be a slow recovery, but our mem- bers still think the fundamentals of the economy that existed in February still exist, and I think that’s going to help us,” he noted, adding, how- ever, that leisure and hospitality, as well as mom- and-pop shops of all kinds — two types of busi- nesses that are important to the Franklin County economy — are especially vulnerable right now.
Knowing all of this — the tentatively good health news and the more uncertain economic outlook — Szynal chooses to take the glass-half- full view.
“The numbers are fairly optimistic, and I think the most important thing right now is con- fidence,” she said. “That’s what’s going to help those businesses bounce back.” u
Joseph Bednar can be reached at [email protected]
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