A Note From OBI President & CEO Sandra McDonough

Published Wednesday, March 25, 2020

OBI Members:

The last several days have been incredibly challenging times for Oregon businesses and our workers. The extraordinary measures that have been taken to stop the spread of coronavirus, including business closures, have had an unprecedented impact on employers in our state. Small business has been particularly hard hit, but no business, no industry is unaffected.

Daily, we get stories from members about how the crisis has impacted them. Some are heartbreaking, like the small retailer in Ashland who, overnight, went from being a mom-and-pop operation with four part-time employees to becoming a business run by Mom and Pop all by themselves. They experienced the boomerang effect of business loss after the Oregon Shakespeare Festival canceled performances.

There’s the larger retailer in Portland fighting hard to sustain an online business to offset the loss of virtually all in-store sales. The manufacturers who have adjusted shifts so they could accommodate social distancing. And the many, many office-based companies, large and small, who have told us that as much as 90% of their employees are working remotely.

The hospitality industry has been particularly devastated by the crisis, as restaurants were closed except for take-out and entertainment venues were shuttered. But these businesses are continuing  to step up:  my colleague Jason Brandt of the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association tells me hotels and other lodging establishments across our state are working with local officials to make beds available to help contain the spread of this virus and to accommodate medical and emergency personnel deployed in the effort.

Our health care members are working around the clock to ensure Oregonians get the best care possible. Transportation companies are making sure Oregonians have access to the critical goods and services they need, especially now that so many of us are working from home. And companies across the state are making charitable donations to support those in the greatest need, including our devastated small business community.

Oregon business has come together to weather this crisis, now that we are in the midst of it, and we will stay together as we rebuild from the aftermath, including economic fallout.  We want to hear from you. How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted your operations today, and what are your concerns for six months from now?

At OBI, our primary focus has been to make sure our members have the information they need to deal with this crisis, and to help their employees get access to resources they need. And we are advocating to ensure government leaders realize the devastating impact the crisis has had on employers, and the ability of many to make payroll and retain employees.

Our first and foremost concern has been the health of Oregonians. Please, follow Gov. Kate Brown’s directives in her Stay Home, Save Lives order. If you and your employees can work remotely, please do so. If your employees need to be on site, please make sure you implement the social distancing directives from the governor. This is how we will stop the spread of coronavirus.

We are working closely with the governor to ensure businesses that can operate safely will be able to continue to. The ordered closures have been devastating for many Oregon businesses, their workers and their families. We understand why these closures have happened, but we also feel strongly that if a business can operate safely, following the governor’s guidelines, they should be able to do so. We appreciated that Gov. Brown heard that. At the end of the day, protecting families from a loss of income wherever possible must be at the top of the priority list, along with protecting their health.

We continue to work with our partners to advocate for assistance to the businesses impacted by this crisis. We are asking the Legislature for tax relief when it meets in special session next week, as well as easing of regulations that impact how many companies operate.

If you have a particular need, or a question about what the governor has ordered, please email us at  communications@Oregonbusinessindustry.com.  We will do our best to help.

Please stay safe, and do your part to stop the spread of this virus. We are in this together.