“I’ve seen the future and it works." Prince, The Future
I had to channel a little Prince today to get jump started. If you’re weary, be encouraged. We made it through the week and we have a beautiful weekend ahead to recharge. And, despite the challenges, so many of you are paying it forward.
Waiting. That's kind of what we all seemed to be doing for a bit. First was the quick emergency response, then some treading water and waiting, and now... most of us seem to be trying to move forward, headed in the direction of "normal" or something that resembles it, all the while wondering what will normal look like? For that matter, what will next week look like?
One of the keys to working on policy in an organization with 1200+ members that range from garage start-ups to multi-billion dollar corporations is looking out for unintended consequences. When you squeeze one side of a balloon, where does the other side pop out? When governments pick winners, who become the losers? When you restrict one behavior, what are the downstream effects? We normally spend a lot of time trying to think three steps ahead, and in this era of pandemic response there are so many variables the options paralysis is almost overwhelming.
So like many of you, we're trying to keep doing what we've always done, just from home. We're still advocating for business. We're still keeping an eye on policy. We're still communicating with elected officials at all levels of government.
We're also modifying the things we've always done that are now more important and more relevant than ever. Have you joined us for a public policy webinar conversation yet? If not, see the ones we have scheduled below. Running for office? Our East Metro Voter Guide is going to be an increasingly useful place for voters to get information.
Our plan - no matter what happens, what executive order changes are issued, or however this virus tries to dictate our behavior, we're still going to be doing our thing for as long as we can. And we're going to keep helping YOU do YOUR thing.
What will normal look like? Whatever we make it look like. We're all tired of waiting. Join us and let's figure it out together.
Director of Public Affairs
Follow me on Twitter @SPACC
I read an interesting article this morning on managing the risk of bringing employees back to work. Every organization is being challenged and stressed by the pandemic. We are being called upon to lead others through this complexity. In the moment we are focused on “what” we should do – running lots of financial scenario planning exercises preparing for the “what if’s”, determining how and when to furlough/bring people back. The next step, then, is a comprehensive detailed plan on the “how” we will bring people back to work. Note that DEED/DLI have a draft template to help with the mechanics, linked below.
An important part of the “how” is addressing the experience of our employees. We must do all we can to make the workplace physically safe, and also assuage the anxiety of the team. I’ve learned a few hard lessons in this job so far, and one of them applies here: of ultimate importance is HOW we do things. We don’t have to be perfect, but we must be perfectly accountable. Because we know it won’t be the same place we return to. We will return to a new and different physical/emotional place.
This article as a good reminder to me to think beyond today to how we translate into new beginnings tomorrow!
Nothing would help Minnesota more than a robust bonding bill.
Eventually, the economy will return to normal, and this will help us get there.
By Joe Spencer and B Kyle. Originally published by the StarTribune.
Since early February, our state lawmakers have been contemplating the best package of capital investments to make in Minnesota. With an unexpected public health crisis and sudden economic downturn, it might be tempting to respond with caution and postpone much of that spending. We’re urging our Legislature and governor to do the opposite.
What’s called the “bonding bill” is one of the most effective tools for helping Minnesota’s economy recover, making it more important than ever to lean in to smart infrastructure investment.
For the last several years there has been a gradual reduction in infrastructure investment at the local, state and federal levels. As a percentage of GDP, annual U.S. spending on infrastructure has fallen from over 4% in the 1960s to less than 1.5% in recent years. From our experience, we also can attest to the reality that our infrastructure is aging and in need of investment — and that when we do invest in it, our economy benefits.
We have seen firsthand here in Minnesota how strategic public spending allows us to thrive in a global economy through transportation projects like the Green Line, or entertainment facilities like the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center (DECC), or economic development projects like Rochester’s Destination Medical Center. Billions of additional private dollars were spent to take advantage of those public assets.
It is clear we must continue to make these types of investments in our cities and state if we want to see a strong, stable economic recovery from COVID-19.
Most important is the timing. Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers touts the ability of strategic infrastructure investment to create quality jobs and provide an economic stimulus by expanding the economy’s capacity. Andrew Haughwant of the New York Federal Reserve describes infrastructure investment as an “automatic stabilizer” for our economy.
Economists of all stripes, from the Cato Institute to the Hamilton Project, agree that timing is critical. The Congressional Research Service report from January of 2018 concluded that the largest immediate impacts from infrastructure spending could come from deficit-financed spending during a recession. With more availability of labor and materials, infrastructure investments during contraction won’t “crowd out” private sector investments, thereby maximizing the benefits.
As interest rates remain historically low, infrastructure projects and the jobs they bring will give the economy the jump-start it needs to re-establish itself. The resulting improvements will make production and delivery more efficient for business, providing a boost in productivity.
Projects like St. Paul’s Kellogg /3rd Street Bridge replacement and Ramsey County’s Riversedge development are among the smartest investments our leaders could make right now. Replacing crumbling infrastructure is an obligation that will come due sooner rather than later, and Riversedge will result in dramatic economic growth for our region for generations to come.
These are just two projects out of many across the state that will strengthen our state and hasten our recovery. Now is the time.
The governor encourages us that this is the time “where character gets defined.” We appreciate the especially heavy load of leadership carried by our state lawmakers during the COVID-19 pandemic. So far, we couldn’t be more impressed with the response from our state leaders. We urge them to act decisively and with confidence by approving significant infrastructure investments in this session’s bonding bill, for the benefit of our immediate recovery and long-term prosperity for all of Minnesota.
Joe Spencer is President of the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance. B Kyle is president and CEO of the Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
Greetings! I trust you found creative ways to enjoy time with loved ones and recharge this past weekend. The snow certainly confounded our “let’s go for a long walk and release some tension” plans. But as I sit here this Monday, the day looks to be beautiful outside. I have a friendly little cardinal that sits on my patio and taps on my sliding glass door every morning. Apparently that means someone who has passed is thinking of me. Well, whoever that person is, he or she is regularly and very loudly thinking of me!
Reflecting on this season and my need for a structured approach to social distancing, I was inspired by a great intervew with Anne Bancroft in the Pioneer Press. Of course! Talk to someone who’s been isolated for a loooong time. Bancroft shared her thoughts and I’ll list her tips here. You can also read the full article here.
Spend time outdoors
Stick to a routine
Maintain a sense of humor
Do something for others
Appreciate the little things
So far, I’m managing pretty well, though I need to get away from my computer for more time outdoors. Bancroft says, “Sometimes I walk really fast, and sometimes I’m following deer trails, just opening my eyes to things. I like to leave the path a little bit, and I mean that metaphorically and figuratively. Suddenly, the day moves along a lot faster than when you’re muddling on about all the things you’re missing out on.” Great reminder and a suggestion I’ll follow.
As we approach this weekend, special to so many of us, I’m reflecting a bit on what this New Normal can bring to us if we listen. Time with family, adventures with the kids, worship opportunities, seeing our neighbors with new eyes - all are a little different today. I submit to you that beautiful things are happening around us.
Over the past two weeks, a few SPACC members have called us because, regretfully, they don’t feel they can afford to renew their membership. Instead of dropping membership, together with our membership team they are coming up with creative solutions. In return for a one-year deferral in dues, one food company is offering boxed lunches to medical staff at the various hospitals in the area. Another is donating 75 Easter meals for a hospital’s cancer and blood disorders unit. A third SPACC member is raising money through their foundation to pay for the food these businesses are providing.
Large companies are halting termination of service for phone, TV, internet, utilities; donating millions to food shelves, nonprofits. Others are donating their companies’ supplies of PPE to medical facilities. Still others are donating tens of thousands of dollars in fuel to nonprofits delivering food across Minnesota, and our manufacturers are redirecting employee work on their shop floors to provide products in high demand right now.
These are largely silent gifts; Minnesotans don’t like to brag. I’m so impressed by how organizations of every size, each severely impacted by COVID-19 themselves, are leaning in. In each case, “business” is being led by PEOPLE who are invested in one another. Amazing.
These are truly connections that count.
Our sojourn into the unknown continues. I listened to the Governor’s briefing this afternoon, at which he extended the Stay-At-Home order – and shut-down of “public accommodation businesses” - until May 4. Our Governor said it well on Friday, this is the time “where character gets defined.”
Indeed. The pressure is only increasing for our economy. On Monday, a new national survey from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that 1 in 4 small businesses have been shut down temporarily and 43% of owners believe they have less than 6 months until they go out of business for good. And an alarming 1 in 10 small business owners think they’ll be forced to shut down for good in less than a month.
Today the Federal Reserve posted an article on last week’s survey across the 9th District regarding COVID-19’s impact. “Firms are trying to find their footing in a dizzying landscape, but their survival is at stake.” The challenge is that this pandemic, hitting us with unexpected and outsized spread and impact, can’t really be gauged for timeline or long term consequences – we just don’t know. It’s the not knowing, the uncertainty about how long we have to adapt, that poses the biggest risks.
By end of month March, 43% of survey respondents in the District said monthly revenues fell by half or more, compared with January and February (and some are reporting more than 80% drop…). The upside? Respondents conveyed a general sense that federal and state emergency aid will help. How much help, of course, remains the question.
I've had "send an advocacy news" on my to-do list for the last two weeks.
I've started so many drafts, and then tossed them aside, because what I'd written the day before, or hour before, or 15 minutes ago... new news arrives and suddenly all of the words on the paper are out of date. "I'll send it after the next briefing," I say. Or, "as soon as I know for sure what's going to happen with this city council."
Since so much of public affairs involves communicating, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. We no longer have the luxury of going to a meeting and watching body language to inform our own whip count, or catching somebody in the hall for a quick conversation. So we're having to adapt and get creative with communications, and still try to do our jobs. All the while being thankful we have jobs we get to do.
We all have issues we care about and public policy that's in some ways just as important today as it was yesterday, but the balancing act of trying to keep a meeting on the books when some businesses are closing their doors, and people are losing their jobs and governments are trying to figure out how to legally get things done and keep people safe at the same time... well, lets just say we're all getting an unusual lesson in juggling the urgent AND the important.
In past legislative sessions I've joked about the constant status of Hurry Up and Wait, but man, this is a whole new level. The herky-jerky speeding up and slamming on the brakes at all levels of government is giving us a different kind of motion sickness. In governments' defense, it's not the driver to blame - this car has some majorly unexpected problems, and staying on course is a victory in itself.
At SPACC we've used this unexpected opportunity to get real clarity on what we do, and how we can keep doing it. At the very core of our chamber - YOUR chamber - is creating connections that count. And we're using every opportunity and tool available to us to make sure you stay connected. Webinars. Zoom meetings. Notes from conference calls. Daily briefing emails. We're certainly not perfect and we're learning lessons along with you, but we're doing everything we can think of. If you have other suggestions please don't hesitate to speak up.
So.. thank you for the work you're doing to keep everybody safe, no matter how personally painful it is turning out to be. Thank you for hanging in there with us when the technology goofs. Thank you for letting us know how we can best serve you. Thank you for continuing to be a partner in the work.
We don't quite know what's next or how things will look when we get there, but we do know we have to get there together.
Director of Public Affairs
Follow me on Twitter @Shannon_SPACC
Greetings and happy Thursday. May I start with a moment of levity: I just read about another Chamber in Kansas that has named their networking e-sessions POSH: “pants optional social hour”…. Lol. You can’t make this stuff up.
Next week we will update our situation report schedule to M-W-F, focusing each day on a specific business type and detailing resources applicable to you.
Because, in the sheer volume of information, we are missing things. For example, did you realize that the CARES Act (which was signed into law last Friday) states that “the SBA will cover all loan payments on SBA 504 loans, including principal, interest, and fees, for six months”? This is true for any SBA 504 borrower that is in ‘regular servicing’ (for borrowers currently in deferral, the debt relief starts after the deferment period). The law also says this relief will be available to new borrowers who take out SBA 504 loans between March 27 and September 26, 2020. The debt relief started with the April payment and continues through the September payment. Borrowers do not need to do anything to take advantage of this debt relief, it will happen automatically.
Generally speaking, how are we doing in accessing the funds we understand are available to us? Regarding the Payroll Protection Plan, as I speak to the larger lenders, they are gearing up to be ready to go live tomorrow. But they may still have to push into next week. The Treasury is assuring us that the fund will not go dry, but I can imagine $350 billion could be committed quickly, forcing Congress to approve a second fund. Time will tell.