It’s been hard to approximate layoffs. Business owners don’t want to announce them, and the monthly figures seem so theoretical.
Bassett Healthcare Network, people figure – and have heard anecdotally from time to time – has certainly furloughed and cut back hours after closing two floors and halting elective surgeries while coronavirus was considered a pending local emergency. But it doesn’t want to brag about it either.
So the county Board of Representatives plans to lay off 59 people – 50.5 FT equivalents, 10 percent of its payroll for $1 million in savings, and hardly enough – was a bracing bucket of cold water.
So were state Sen. Jim Seward’s declarations over the past few weeks that a depended-upon safety net, the state Department of Labor, is inaccessible. No one’s answering the phone and constituents, after days of trying, have been calling the senator’s office in tears. He wants answers, and action.
We need to focus, people.
In an interview the other day, the able Cassandra Harrington, executive director of Destination Marketing Corp. of Otsego County (too long a name) or DMCOC (meaningless acronym) had some scary numbers to share.
In 2018, she said, tourism brought $206 million to Otsego County, of which $101 million was spent employing people in a total of 3,426 jobs. Those jobs aren’t there this summer.
Happily, Destination Marketing has an action plan: It is rolling out a summer marketing promotion on June 1, looking to draw people here from a 150-mile radius.
Before we all throw up our hands in horror: The idea is to attract people, hopefully a lot of them, to kayak (with a loved one who has been equally exposed, or not exposed). And go to our airy beaches. And
Ride bicycles – one person per bike. And hike our lovely trails – 6 feet apart, of course.
Social distancing is easy in the Great Outdoors.
After July 1, when the Hall of Fame and other attractions very likely will have reopened
(The Clark Sports Center is looking to open that day), the marketing plan will shift to attractions, (paced to ensure the local institutions are not overcrowded.)
In the fall, the marketing will shift to foliage.
All of this makes sense, in line with the two-word imperative: REOPEN SAFELY. Both words matter equally; each must be done.
One, are Destination Marketing’s promotions being sufficiently financed?
The county’s contribution to DMCOC is based on last year’s sales- and bed-tax revenues. We know the county’s broke, but it should take a flinty-eyed look at cost-benefit before it considers cutting here.
Another source of revenue is the Partners’ Program – partners being individual hotels, restaurants and attractions. They also are strapped, some less so, and they should participate if they can.
How about our local private foundations? Perhaps they can help ensure marketing efforts are fully funded.
People, some anyhow, are reluctant to accept the fact Otsego County is a tourist economy. That fact is going to be dramatically emphasized in the months ahead.
Two, local business must do what they can to serve, and thus profit from the people lured here by DMCOC’s marketing campaigns.
Maybe restaurants can make box lunches for bicyclists or picnickers. Maybe stores can set up sidewalk displays (enabled by municipalities.) Otsego County Chamber President Barbara Ann Heegan said Oneonta City Hall is considering allowing all restaurants to do sidewalk cafes.
Nice, airy and safe idea.
Individual businesses know better how to do so for themselves. It’s important they do so.
We’re all in a fix. But it’s not a fix that’s going to last forever.
Maybe the weather will slow the coronavirus. Maybe a vaccine will be developed over the fall or winter or sooner. Maybe immunity will become widespread. Pandemics eventually end, some more happily than others.
The point is, as we flattened the curve, let’s now do what we can to soften the economic pain.