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Protecting Utah’s economy from coronavirus

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Virus or no virus, Utah remains open for business. The first month of this year, our state’s nonfarm payroll grew by almost 3%, adding some 45,000 new jobs to the economy since January of 2019, and our seasonally adjusted employment rate is an estimated 2.5% — a full point below the national average. This date speaks to Utah’s focus on fundamentals. We’ve cultivated an economy in Utah that deserves protecting.

Of course, some things are beyond sound fiscal policies and best practices. We live in a highly integrated world, and vigilance to unintended consequences must be our new normal, particularly as sudden and random threats like novel coronavirus (COVID-19) can quickly create serious repercussions here in Utah. That vigilance, however, must be kept in perspective, lest we become victims to overreaction.

While there may be a fine line between preparation and panic, the former will always overcome the latter, and our employers and employees are proving the point by the preparations they are making that keep Utah open for business. Through contingency planning like remote working, employee redundancy, and adjusting global supply chains, we can mitigate and even obviate consequences of the coronavirus. At the same time this preparation avoids exacerbating real problems that occur when panic becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

This spirit of preparation is woven into the fabric of Utah. It informs where we live, how we work and go to school, the counsel we pass to our children, and the policies that guide state and local governments. Almost annually, we are named the best governed state in the nation. Education outcomes reflect parental investment as well as talented teachers and prepared students. And self-reliance is taught from our largest cities to our smallest rural communities.

Knowing that life must go on, industry groups — from retail, to service, to travel — have prepared for conditions like those we face now. They follow strict protocols. Their personnel are well trained, and they have contingency plans to protect themselves and their clients. 

In the spirit of preparation, last Monday Gov. Gary Herbert established the COVID-19 Community Task Force under the direction of Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox. On the same day, the Salt Lake Chamber went live with an online clearinghouse of resources for all businesses — employers and employees — slchamber.com/coronavirus. There, you can find information and best practices to prepare for dealing with the coronavirus. 

Most important is clear and constant communication on how to prevent illness in the first place. Nearly half of all Utahns wake up every morning and go to work. That makes businesses an effective means of communication by simply sharing vital information, updates and reminders. Companies can access informational signs through the Chamber clearinghouse that links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as other national and local resources.

The Chamber web portal also provides information on how to create a contingency plan for your organization, including options for determining how and when employees should work remotely and how to build redundancies into your systems and personnel. Businesses are also encouraged to be aware of travel guidance and restrictions, and the website offers best practices for addressing supply chain challenges. 

As the coronavirus presents a quickly evolving situation, the Utah business community will continue to complement the work being done by federal and state governments, putting emphasis on business leaders, employees and the clients and consumers who work with them. We invite everyone to use the resources being provided through that community by referring often to slchamber.com/coronavirus for the most up-to-date information on how your business can prevent, plan and protect.

Derek Miller is the president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber.