April 21, 2020
The Office of the Governor of Montana
Montana State Capitol Building
1301 East 6th Avenue
Helena, Montana 59601
Dear Governor Bullock,
The people of the business community of Montana appreciate your leadership over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. You have made some tough decisions in order to protect the public health, welfare, and safety of Montanans.
Your recent announcement that it is near time for Montana to reopen and revive our economy in a phased manner is much appreciated as well.
The timing of your efforts to start Phase 1 of our recovery is very important. Already, many of our rural communities were struggling due to a downturn in the agriculture economy. With the COVID-19 pandemic, their circumstances are even more precarious. Today, Montana businesses and employers are down, but they are not out. At this point, every day has an exponentially negative impact on the number of Montana businesses and employers that go under.
A recent survey conducted on April 16-17, 2020 by the Montana Bankers Association confirmed what the dozens of bankers from large, medium and small sized banks in Montana’s cities and towns know today:
- There is a 5 to 30-day window of opportunity for 84% of Montana bank business customers to recover if they are able to open within that period. Beyond that, most of Montana bankers are uncertain of the result.
- 86% of Montana bankers indicated that their business customers understand the importance of the need for public safety and the importance of the shelter in place order. Yet, they believe that a gradual reduction (such as Phase 1) is necessary to both protect public safety and to revive our economy.
- 89% of Montana bankers expressed confidence that their customers are capable and willing to implement health safety procedures to limit exposure for both customers and employees, as they work to open and rebuild their businesses.
The Montana Chamber of Commerce conducted a survey of its membership during the same time period. This survey resulted in:
- Optimism among 65% of the respondents who believe they are able to recover as long as they are allowed to open up within the next 30 days.
- 18% of the respondents expressed support for a “phased” reopening of Montana’s economy.
The business community takes the health threat of COVID-19 seriously, for its employees and customers. Already, we see business innovating to provide protections to the consumer and the workforce, implementing social distancing standards, protective barriers and limiting customer numbers into their facilities. Businesses still closed due to voluntary or mandatory closures are preparing to implement these same measures in order to protect employees, customers and build confidence in the consuming public.
With a deliberate and gradual approach, employers understand that schools may need to remain closed in the interests of public safety. We are capable of being flexible and partnering with our colleagues and employees to address the challenges that this may pose. Similarly, visits to senior living facilities and hospitals will need to be prohibited. Allowing venues like restaurants, bars/casinos, movie theatres, sporting venues, and places of worship to operate under strict physical distancing protocols is reasonable and necessary. Opening gyms and other businesses and requiring them to adhere to strict physical distancing and use of sanitation protocols is reasonable as well.
Because Montanans have followed the guidelines of your shelter in place order, we are confident that we are fully capable of working within the confines of the first phase. As Montana’s economy is revived and we do what is necessary to protect ourselves, our families and our communities, we are confident that Montana will enter Phase 2 and Phase 3, working toward normalcy, as soon as appropriate and possible. The business community is prepared to work with the State of Montana and local governments to be responsive and compliant with any public health orders that occur in the case of increased concern for public health and safety.
If circumstances require that a shelter in place must go back into effect, we will stand with you and work with you to make certain everything that can be done to protect public health and safety is implemented.
Along with the undersigned organizations, the Montana Chamber of Commerce and the Montana Bankers Association are committed to helping your administration in any way necessary to achieve a phased-in reopening of the Montana economy within days after the expiration the current shelter in place order.
Todd O’Hair, President and CEO, The Montana Chamber of Commerce
Cary Hegreberg, President and CEO, The Montana Bankers Association
John O’Brien, President Beaverhead County Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture
Candace Carr Strauss, CEO, Big Sky Chamber / Visit Big Sky
Shane Etzwiler, President and CEO, Great Falls Area Chamber of Commerce
Daniel C. Dahl, President, Chinook Chamber
Bruce Knudsen, Executive Vice President, Montana Auto Dealers Association
Kristi Blazer, Executive Director, Montana Beer and Wine Distributors Association
Lisa Koski, Executive Director, Glasgow Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture
Leslie Feigel, Chief Executive Officer, Livingston Area Chamber of Commerce
Daryl W. Schliem, President & CEO, Bozeman Area Chamber of Commerce
Julie Schroder, Powell County Chamber of Commerce
Joyce Kelley, President, Stillwater County Chamber of Commerce
Stuart Doggett, Executive Director, Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association
Candi Whitworth, Executive Director, Beaverhead Chamber of Commerce & Agriculture
Brad Griffin, President, Montana Retail Association
John Iverson, Government Affairs, Montana Tavern Association
David Smith, Executive Director, Montana Contractors Association
Scott Sehnert, Market President / Executive Vice President, Montana Manufacturers Association
For more information, please contact Kimberly Seligman