We’re making our way through extraordinary times. The circumstances we’ve struggled with for months now have no precedent. Decision-makers at all levels have no off-the-shelf solutions to select from.
The critical choices that had to be made quickly held life or death consequences, and they also severely constrained economic vitality. Nobody had easy options.
Those consequential decisions over the past months have touched almost every aspect of our lives and economy. Community and industry leaders are coming to grips now with just how pervasive those shifts will continue to be. Some have opined that there are likely more changes ahead of us than what we’ve experienced since February. The brightest experts readily admit, however, that none of us truly knows what to expect over the coming months and years.
As we continue phased reopening – learning from glitches here and there – the coming weeks and months are more likely to be a plodding slog contrasted with the adrenalin-surge we felt at the start. The disaster loan and grant programs will run their course and business owners will have to calculate their next steps. It’s hard to be profitable with limited capacity and additional safety costs, and near impossible to predict consumer preferences.
Where employees work and how they work is likely to be as permanently altered as how we shop, dine and seek entertainment. With changed land use demands, communities might have new choices to make and perhaps the opportunity to reshape what had already been planned.
We’re bracing ourselves for the growing list of venerable community icons that are closing. Surprisingly though, we’re also hearing from entrepreneurs with ventures that will attract new markets.
Alexandria has much to be grateful for. Our community leaders were among the earliest to take drastic distancing steps and involve experts in health policies. It’s reassuring to note how forthcoming everyone has been to pitch in and do what needs to be done.
Alexandria’s tight-knit business community has routinely worked collaboratively and that’s never served us better than now. One of the greatest challenges is always getting the right information and resources to the right people – and at the right time. That could always be improved but Alexandria shares information throughout its business community better than most.
City leadership has also undertaken extraordinary efforts to continue or reinstate services and adapt previously rigid protocols to give businesses more flexibility for serving customers and generating revenue. Even state functions never before considered particularly accommodating have adjusted some of their requirements and granted concessions under the new circumstance. It’s a boost to all of us when people can enjoy al fresco dining on our distinctive streets.
As we plan for the coming phases, we can reflect on just how well the Alexandria community has risen to the occasion. We have seen innovative responses and productive partnerships. The phrase “we’re all in this to together” is a mantra that drives us onward, and it’s reassuring to be in something like this with the likes of fellow Alexandrians.
The writer is executive director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center.