Grand Rapids Chamber Supports Small Business with Smart Restart

Grand Rapids Chamber Supports Small Business with Smart Restart 1(Grand Rapids, Mich. – May 19, 2020) – The Grand Rapids Chamber today announced, at John Ball Zoo during a Press Conference, a Smart Restart agenda approved by the Chamber Board of Directors in support of our small business community, the amazing ways business are meeting the challenges posed by COVID-19 and called for a responsible reopening.

Over a month ago, the Grand Rapids Chamber presented a phased, restart plan to policymakers with a framework based upon geographic and activity-based risk to create pathways for regions to responsibly reopen as quickly, and as safely as possible. Building upon this, the priorities highlighted in the Smart Restart include important policies impacted business will need to move forward:  property tax deferment, employer liability protections, regulatory flexibility and common-sense compliance.

“Recovery is critical, because as the engines of our economy, our businesses create the value, service, and activity that generate the resources that make our communities run and thrive.” said Grand Rapids Chamber President and CEO, Rick Baker.

Additionally, the Smart Restart calls attention to the importance of keeping talent top-of-mind, and stresses the significance of Going Pro, addressing childcare deficits, and the great need for employers to re-skill after COVID-19, as employment options shift.

Locally, the Grand Rapids Chamber is exploring partnerships with Kent County and other stakeholders in order to provide small business owners with a “PPE KIT” to ensure best practices and guidance for a successful and safe return to work.

Lastly, the Smart Restart highlights that capacity limits and consumer confidence will make it difficult for restaurants and bars to serve enough patrons to earn a profit. With summer approaching, the Chamber is exploring working with local government to designate “social districts” to allow businesses to extend their liquor license to outdoor public spaces, such as a converted park, parking lot, or street. This would permit the service of customers while allowing social distancing and safe practices to continue.

The Chamber was joined by Peter D’Arienzo, Chief Executive Officer of John Ball Zoo; Sara Grey, Founder & Owner, Lunar Cycle Studio; and Cindy Ludwick, Owner, Seven & Mane Salon. They each shared their experiences and how their businesses are pivoting or preparing for a responsible reopening when the public health situation allows.

“Being forced to close has put the John Ball Zoo in an unprecedented time in terms of revenue losses averaging one million dollars per month in both April and May,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo.

“Should we remain closed, those numbers double to two million dollars of lost revenue per month in June, July, and August. The John Ball Zoo family of employees and the broader community is at the center of what we do. We are ready and prepared to welcome the community back safely once we are allowed to do so. Our team has worked hard and is excited to demonstrate the additional measures we have put into place to ensure the safety of our guests, employees, and the nearly 2,000 animals who call John Ball Zoo home,” continued D’Arienzo.

“The Grand Rapids Chamber represents one of the most incredible business communities in the world,” said Rick Baker, President & CEO of the Grand Rapids Chamber. “Our collaborative spirit, along with the work ethic of West Michigan will help guide us into a brighter future, together.”





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