Pa. Chamber announces ‘Bringing PA Back’ initiative for safe return to business

Stacy Wescoe//April 20, 2020

Pa. Chamber announces ‘Bringing PA Back’ initiative for safe return to business

Stacy Wescoe//April 20, 2020

Pa. Chamber looks to best practices for safely reopening the state’s businesses post COVID-19. PHOTO/GETTY IMAGES –

As the state looks towards the process of reopening post COVID-19, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce will be working with business leaders across the state to help map out that return.

Gene Barr, president and CEO of the state chamber, told Lehigh Valley Business that chamber staff have already begun gathering ideas and information on the needs of the state’s different industries by speaking with professionals, local chambers and elected officials.

The chamber will be hosting a webinar on Wednesday to kick off what it is calling the “Bringing PA Back” initiative.

“We’re soliciting ideas on how we move forward,” Barr said. “We need to know such things as what permits may be required so we can get everything we need in place to make reopening as seamless as possible.”

He said some industries have clearly been hit harder than others. “What has happened in the restaurant and lodging sector could almost be described as apocalyptic,” he said. Those industries, especially restaurants, face unique challenges if and when they reopen for full-service.

While many have been scraping by offering delivery and takeout, having a full restaurant poses a different set of challenges, Barr said. How to reopen is a major question. For example, they could reopen with less seating to keep patrons further apart. However, if they eliminate too many tables they may not be able to make enough money to stay in business.

He has more hope for a quicker reopening of the construction industry, as long as proper safety protocols are instituted.

“We believe we can do that with social distancing and such things as not sharing tools, especially in areas not hit as hard by the virus,” he said.

The Chamber would like to see more non-life sustaining retail stores open, but understands there are concerns there. He doesn’t want to see coronavirus flare ups because people are flocking to newly reopened stores.

“You have to be cautious,” he said. “Stores like florists or jewelry stores, you don’t just let anybody come in. You have to make an appointment or something like that. We’re all going to have to be inventive.

He offered Grocery stores as an example of businesses that are doing extremely well right now, but they still face challenges that need to be considered. For example, the governor has mandated mask wearing for employees and customers in stores. In many cases that places young and less experienced workers in the position of policing customers and telling they can’t come into the store without a mask — responsibility they might not be ready for.

Barr’s greatest concern is for the entertainment industry, which he knows people would like to see return to normal.

“We’re all prepared to go back to that concert venue or movie, but they’re not going to reopen anytime soon,” he said. “We’re going to have to be cautious about what businesses come back.”

Wednesday’s forum will provide safety and policy guidance for employers and will seek input from business leaders on what they feel they need to reopen.

The hour-long webinar begins at 11 a.m. For more information go to the chamber’s website at www.pachamber.org.