A long April

CBJ Editorial

Some businesses are experiencing a massive slowdown or near complete cessation of operations, and unemployment numbers are increasing at an alarming rate. Many of these same businesses are wondering when things will get back to normal, or at least when they can begin planning to get back to normal.

We’re afraid that the uncertainty over when operations will resume is becoming more perilous than the actual loss of business revenue. In the absence of accurate and factual information, people will believe the worst.

We would like to see the state and federal government institute a severe lock down, i.e. shelter-in-place for the entire month of April, since one health care expert interviewed by the CBJ expects COVID-19 cases to crest around April 24. The government should then give business owners a firm date to plan to get things restarted sometime in May. This seems to be the best situation in an already haphazard strategy.

This way businesses can write off April and a portion of May, which many already have, but not the entire second quarter, and give hope to these employers, their employees and the country.

Should social distancing restrictions be thrown out the window if the coronavirus is still raging in May? Of course not. Even so, the government could identify incremental steps by then to begin unlocking the economy.

Navigating the infodemic

Nearly every economic development organization is doing its best to fill the information gap for business owners and managers during this turbulent economic time, especially in regard to much-needed state and federal assistance programs.

Unfortunately, the glut of information is creating something now referred to as an “infodemic” – essentially an excessive amount of information concerning a problem such that the solution is made more difficult.

Business owners want to know about these assistance programs as soon as possible because their very existence could depend on them. These programs have been passed legislatively, but guidance on them remains questionable and implementation even more so.

This gets us to our age-old desire to have just one economic development organization for the entire Cedar Rapids/Iowa City Corridor.

To be sure, economic development organizations are all doing their best to be relevant and informative during these challenging times, and much of their information is very helpful. But when you get inundated with webinars, experts and Q&As that are all dealing with the same topic, it becomes more noise in an already noisy space.

Several entities in Iowa City, including Think Iowa City, the Iowa City Area Business Partnership and Iowa City Area Development Group, are uniformly sharing information they’ve consolidated for their members and interested parties. This is exactly what is needed on a regional scale.

If we had just one or just a few economic development organizations in the Corridor’s seven-county territory, then the duplication of efforts would be minimized, and the additional staff efforts used to communicate could be used to help these businesses remain relevant and viable.  CBJ