As the economy ails GNO Inc issues recommendations for safely reopening more businesses

Published: Apr. 29, 2020 at 6:32 PM CDT
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New Orleans CBD and French Quarter.
New Orleans CBD and French Quarter.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - As the economy shows deep scars from the COVID-19 pandemic an economic development organization releases its recommendations and strategies for safely reopening businesses in the New Orleans area.

Greater New Orleans Inc. issued a new report called, “Getting Back to Work in the New Normal, Best Practices for Business Reopening.”

Michael Hecht is President and CEO of GNO Inc.

"It’s regional in context, it has industry-specific recommendations and there’s a section on future opportunities for each of the industries. We’re not only trying to survive today, we’re looking to some really exciting opportunities in the future as things like manufacturing and tech are reshored back to the states and Greater New Orleans,” Hecht said.

The report says health and safety must be a priority as businesses reopen.

"And so you see some cross-cutting protocols that we know like social-distancing or hygiene but then some industry-specific suggestions, so far example, in restaurants, it’s about metering the number of people who come in, in manufacturing it’s about having gate checks for temperatures and symptoms, for universities, it’s about things like blended-learning,” Hecht said.

He conceded that there may be some inherent challenges as more businesses try to reopen in the area.

"One is that these protocols that we’re talking about putting in place have to be assimilated, it involves buying things like masks, it involves reconfiguring stores, it involves retraining employees,” Hecht stated.

He also said there will be a fear factor.

"You're going to have fear on the part of employees that want to make sure they're coming back to a safe place but also fear on the part of customers that want to know that they're coming into a safe environment and that's something that goes all the way from Main Street retail all the way to tourism and hospitality,” Hecht said.

The U.S. Gross Domestic Product which measures goods and services produced in the economy fell by 4.8 percent for the first quarter of 2020. While disappointing, Hecht said he is looking beyond that.

"We know that this is going to be an unprecedented economic event, but I think that also the general consensus that you’re hearing from everybody is that, if we can slowly and responsibly be able to work our way out of it we’re going to come out battered and bruised but we’re still going to be standing,” Hecht said.

The pandemic has caused oil prices to fall sharply and the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association says the crisis is impossible to overstate as jobs in the state are being lost.

U.S. Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said he is repeatedly discussing the problem with the Trump administration.

"I talk to the White House, the Department of Energy, the Department of Interior every single day about what we can do to help our oil and gas industries and our oil field service industries. We are trying to do some things, we're trying to fill up our every reserve, every tank we've got in the country to buy oil from our domestic producers,” Kennedy said.

Hecht said he is optimistic about the future and the reopening of more businesses. "Our feeling is despite the challenges, beginning even slowly to get the economy reopened will have two benefits, one, it will begin to generate regular revenue again, but also it will give businesses and I think the public a psychological sense of hope,” he said.

Hecht added that ongoing federal support for the coronavirus-related Paycheck Protection Program will be needed to help struggling businesses.

"Continued support for things like the PPP which we know is going to require a third, or maybe a fourth tranche of funding that's important also,” Hecht said.

Some other GNO Inc., recommendations include social distancing decals in elevators, more online government services and planning for another potential outbreak.

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