By Ashli Watts
As many businesses are reopening here in the commonwealth, the question has been asked: Are we ready?
And this is a valid question. For almost two months, we have seen the majority of Kentucky businesses close their doors, school taught remotely, churches not holding worship services and almost 35 percent of our population is now unemployed. The pandemic is unlike anything we have ever seen, and its impact will be felt for years to come.
Through all of this, Kentucky businesses have been resilient and entrepreneurial in doing their part to ensure the safety of their employees and patrons. Through no fault of their own, business owners were required to close their doors, many losing their livelihood and dreams due to a virus over which they had no control. And yet, over the last two months, there have been virtually no bad actors. Businesses did as they were told, following safety protocol and protecting their employees to every extent possible. The question I continue to hear from businesses is simply, “how can we help?” From donating masks and gloves, to distilleries making hand sanitizer and many companies lighting their facilities green to show compassion, Kentucky businesses have proven to be nothing but responsible-potentially risking everything they have for the safety of others.
Witnessing how employers have stepped up and answered the call for the greater good should make us feel comfortable as business starts to reopen in a safe, methodical manner. Kentucky businesses have done their part to flatten the curve and save lives. This same mentality is being carried over as we reopen. Kentucky signature companies like Brown-Forman, Toyota, Ford, Churchill Downs and UPS have set the example of how we can reopen the economy and ensure everyone’s safety. In addition to daily health screenings and providing masks for all employers, some are going well beyond the requirements. My favorite example is Brown Forman providing shirts for employees that read “Stay 6 Ft Away!”
The Kentucky Chamber recently conducted a poll of Kentuckians asking, “Once government provides information that the spread of the virus is declining and it’s time for the economy to re-open and people to come out of their homes, how likely are you to feel safe enough to do so?” Eighty percent answered “totally likely” with only 17 percent answering “unlikely.” Even I was surprised with the overwhelming positive response of Kentuckians ready to go back to work, patron business and start our new “normal” way of life.
I would guess the answer to this question would look much different in other states. Kentuckians have done everything in their power to keep everyone safe and because of these responsible efforts, there is comfort in knowing now that we are reopening, we are doing so in the safest way possible.
Now that restaurants, retail, tourism attractions and others are starting to reopen, let’s give back to the businesses who did their part to keep us all safe. As we start to ease into our new “normal” let’s support the businesses who supported us during the most trying time we as Kentuckians have had to face.
We will again be able to enjoy each other’s company by watching a horse race and sipping a Kentucky bourbon soon, but until that time, let’s do everything possible to support our local businesses who have supported us.
Ashli Watts is the president and CEO of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.