Says clarity can restore faith among businesses
NORTHERN MI – The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance called on the state’s Administration, including the affiliated state departments, and decision-makers to provide a pathway for a full reopening for all industries, including metrics. The Alliance represents 16 chambers and economic development organizations and over 7,000 member businesses from all across northern Michigan.
“There is a feeling of desperation and hopelessness for many of our business owners,” said Stacie Bytwork, the chairperson of the Alliance and president and CEO of the Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce. “Transparency on how decisions are being made and collaboration with our businesses on these discussions would do a lot to restore hope.”
The Alliance said business owners deserve clarity and transparency in how reopening decisions are being made. The coalition shared that all industries should be allowed to reopen with proper safety protocols in place. Restaurants and bars have been particularly hard hit and Michigan is an outlier among neighboring states, with Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio no longer having statewide restaurant capacity restrictions in place, outside of social distancing.
“Business owners in the hospitality industry see the faces of servers and cooks longing to return to their jobs,” said Reginald Smith, Chairman of the Board for Stafford’s Hospitality with locations in Petoskey, Bay View, Alanson, Charlevoix, and Harbor Springs. “The hospitality industry feels completely abandoned. We are one of the region’s largest employers – and we only ask for equity and clarity in requirements and reopening.”
According to the Michigan Restaurant & Lodging Association, the hospitality industry is Michigan’s second largest private employer, responsible for 12.5 percent of the state’s workforce and nearly 10 percent of its economy. It has also suffered disproportionately since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as 3,000 restaurants have permanently closed, 200,000 jobs have been lost, and more than half of all hotels remain at real risk of foreclosure in 2021.
Wedding and banquet venues cannot hold events or weddings because the indoor gathering limit is being interpreted as ten people. Businesses are seeking clarity on COVID restrictions and how decisions are being made and wonder when the rest of their operations will reopen.
“Right now, our customers can socially distance and remove their mask to have a drink, but they can’t enjoy a cigar,” said Andy Hyde of Nolan’s Tobacco and Cigar Bar in Traverse City. “We’re waiting to hear when we can reopen the rest of our business operations.”
“We realize that vaccinations are the best way to end the pandemic, but it has to be a two-pronged approach: continue reopening the economy and shots in arms,” said Sarah Hagen, vice-chairperson of the Alliance and president of the Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce.
The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance continues to support chambers, economic development organizations, and their member businesses by providing timely information and advocating for rural business needs, primarily at the state level. The Alliance is engaged in delivering industry-specific information, access to funding opportunities, and ensuring the northern Michigan voice is represented in reopening discussions. More information on the Alliance’s latest work can be found at nmichiganbusiness.com.
About the Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance:
The Northern Michigan Chamber Alliance is a coalition of chambers and economic development organizations including the Alpena Area Chamber of Commerce, Benzie County Chamber of Commerce, Cadillac Area Chamber of Commerce, Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce, Gaylord Area Chamber of Commerce, Petoskey Regional Chamber of Commerce, Traverse Connect, Manistee Area Chamber of Commerce, Lake Superior Community Partnership, Boyne Area Chamber of Commerce, Elk Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce, Harbor Springs Area Chamber of Commerce, East Jordan Area Chamber of Commerce, Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce, Sault Area Chamber of Commerce, & Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. The Alliance exists to advocate for rural northern Michigan and move forward rural-centric business policy.