Guest opinion: Rebound and Recovery website aims to help small business bounce back

  • Wednesday, July 8, 2020 1:30am
  • Opinion

By Kris Johnson

For the Sequim Gazette

We’ve all learned new terms and acronyms in the last few months, from “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” to WFH (working from home) and PPE (personal protective equipment).

It’s remarkable how quickly COVID-19 has upended our lives and inserted itself into our daily rhythms.

If you run a business, the terms social distancing and PPE are especially meaningful right now. Whether your business kept operating throughout the “stay home” order or reopened as part of Phase 2 or Phase 3 of the governor’s “Safe Start” plan, you need to create a safe environment for employees and customers.

That means reconfiguring break rooms and placing floor stickers to guide foot traffic and limiting the number of people allowed into a store at one time. It likely also means supplying employees with face masks and face shields, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer. Lots and lots of hand sanitizer.

For small business owners who were already juggling multiple responsibilities, it’s a lot to take on.

That’s why the Association of Washington Business (AWB) created a website, located at www.reboundandrecovery.org, to make it easier for employers to find the tools they need to safely welcome back employees and customers.

A business ‘toolkit’

The website features a PPE portal to connect Washington businesses with the manufacturers and distributors of personal protective equipment, including hand sanitizer, gloves and face masks. The portal highlights Washington-based manufacturers and suppliers, making it easy for small businesses to locate the items they need to keep operating.

By focusing on “Made in Washington” products, the site also helps support Washington jobs and industry.

In addition to the PPE Connect portal, the site includes a tool kit to help small businesses prepare their physical spaces for reopening and to assist in communicating health and safety protocols with employees and customers. The tool kit contains downloadable, customizable templates that small business owners can use to create everything from a Safe Work Plan and store signage to social media content and physical distancing floor stickers.

The website is the result of AWB’s Rebound and Recovery Task Force, a group of nearly three dozen business leaders from diverse industries and locations throughout the state, along with state Department of Commerce Director Lisa Brown and Employment Security Commissioner Suzi LeVine.

The task force was led by co-chairs Michelle Hege, CEO and president of DH, a Spokane-based public relations, advertising and branding agency; and Tim Schauer, CEO of MacKay Sposito, an infrastructure and development consulting firm based in Vancouver. The website, including the PPE Connect portal, was built by SiteCrafting, a Tacoma-based full-service digital agency.

Since its launch at the end of May, the website has seen strong demand. In just the first week, the site was visited more than 7,000 times and nearly 1,500 people used the PPE Connect portal to connect with manufactures and distributors of PPE.

By the middle of June, the site had more than 21,000 visits and more than 3,000 email requests for PPE.

Like so many things, the Rebound and Recovery website was developed to meet an urgent need during a time of crisis. When the task force was assembled in April, it had just one goal: To safely reopen as many businesses as possible, as quickly as possible.

Now, as we move into summer, the situation remains fluid. Instead of flattening the curve, we’re talking about different phases of reopening and guarding against a second wave.

We have begun to rebound from the initial crisis, but we’re still working from home wherever we can. We’re still practicing social distancing. And we expect to be in the recovery phase for a long time.

Kris Johnson is president of the Association of Washington Business, the state’s chamber of commerce and manufacturers association.

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