Derek Miller: Planning our way back to work in Utah

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert recently released an updatedUtah Leads Together” 2.0 plan to mitigate the economic impacts of the coronavirus. This new version of the plan focuses on the stabilization phase and ways to reactivate our economy. Utah was among the first in the nation to issue a comprehensive plan and within mere weeks have added guidance to help businesses plan for reactivation.

The state’s coronavirus task force had one primary goal in laying out this updated plan, namely to provide Utah businesses and employees with a framework to start the conversation around planning and resumption of economic engagement. The 2.0 plan gives primacy to the stabilization phase as the bridge for business and consumers to plan and prepare for a new normal. It contains five principles to guide Utahns forward towards full reactivation of the economy. Those include:

  • Staying focused on both the health and economic imperative;

  • Data-driven decision making;

  • Accounting for geographic diversity;

  • Treating high-risk individuals with extra caution; and,

  • Advance new safety protocols.

The guidelines included in 2.0 include the engagement of nearly 80 industry associations, as well as local chambers of commerce, the health care community, education community and businesses of varied sizes to update this plan. Working groups were created to tackle the challenges around jobs, housing, industry, available federal resources, state and local support, critical infrastructure, policy recommendations, financial institutions and communications.

The updated plan provides a roadmap for stabilization of the economy, across the state and industries. Phase two can begin once public health measures manage the spread of the virus and the economic intervention takes hold. The good news is that our social distancing and increased discipline around public health have accelerated the first, urgent phase. We expect to transition quickly into the stabilization phase to “flatten the dip” in the economy and bend the curve back toward recovery. A graduated “dial” will guide this process from red-high risk, orange-moderate risk, yellow-low risk, green-new normal as we move through the stabilization process.

As we start to come out of the pandemic, Utah will regain its position of economic strength in our nation. The approach has been simple, to attack this challenge with leadership and decisiveness instead of falling into a crisis response mode. From the beginning, we made the decision to start educating customers and businesses on what they can do to still engage in the economy safely and ways to support one another.

Almost 90% of Utah businesses are small businesses. These companies have been in the trenches for the battle against the coronavirus. Most have chosen to be socially responsible and flexible with their workforce. I encourage all businesses to apply this plan to your recovery efforts. It will be helpful to ask how your business would look or operate through each part of the color-guided stabilization phase.

We applaud employees who have worked overtime to support customers, innovated, and offered services in a time of fear. It’s time to plan for our collective future, one that does not sacrifice public health or economic security. We have boundless opportunities to succeed in a new world of business and the economy, and our message is one of optimism in the future.

We sit at an inflection point — a time to adapt, innovate, and overcome — as we will enter a new normal where businesses consider and implement new strategies to serve customers and reposition themselves in the marketplace. This can be a time of opportunity and growth, as constructive creativity comes from a confluence of leaders, employees, customers, and community.

The “Utah Leads Together 2.0” plan will help guide the process.

Derek Miller

Derek Miller is president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance and chair of the Utah Economic Response Task Force.