While the response to COVID-19 across the country may seem inconsistent, disjointed, and contradictory, there is good news in the Charleston region: our effort to reinvigorate the economy will be just the reverse. Elected officials, business associations, government groups, businesses, and regional non-profits have partnered to create a unified blueprint for a return to work.
Organized by the Charleston Regional Development Alliance’s collaborative planning initiative, One Region, the intent to coordinate activities, unveiled in early May, has been dubbed “reIgnite” and signals the intention of the community to address the challenges of returning to some semblance of normalcy.
“At the request of our region’s elected officials, One Region is leading a team that is researching best practices for a collective COVID-19 recovery. Industry-specific guidelines for employers, employees, and customers will be released in the coming weeks,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Hank Taylor, the One Region board chair.
Added Willis Cantey of Cantey Tech Consulting and 2020 chair of the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce, “The goal is to provide a consistent recovery roadmap for employers and residents, and inspire confidence and offer clarity.”
Reversing the Freefall
Like all regional economies around the nation, the Charleston metro’s robust economy has skidded nearly to a halt. As one example, pending home sales dropped 11% in April, and listings fell 26% compared to the year before, following a torrid start to the year.
The plan will leverage expertise from business, healthcare, and other sectors to create a science-driven plan for economic recovery. The plan will lean heavily on MUSC, Roper St. Francis, and Trident Health System to ensure that reopening is sufficiently deliberate to prevent a rebound in COVID-19 cases. As of May 13, the Tri-County area reported 800 COVID cases and 29 deaths.
The initiative released its guidelines for small businesses during its introduction. That plan includes a full complement of sanitizing; social distancing; personal protective equipment use; temperature checks; testing, isolating and contact tracing of all staff; limits on business travel, and other common-sense guidelines. It is patterned after frameworks established by the cities of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and Houston, Texas.
“The plan is being developed to ensure that reopening does not set back progress made from current social distancing and stay-at-home orders,” said Rita Berry, president, and CEO of the Greater Summerville Chamber of Commerce.
The Lowcountry Graduate Center is a member of ALL area Chambers of Commerce, as well as the Charleston Regional Development Alliance, and has adopted the small business guidelines for staff.