The Iron Range is Ready to Reopen

The Mesabi Daily News published this commentary from our president today:

Many people think of a chamber of commerce as a social club for business owners. That is one role we play, but we also host leadership trainings, celebrate business leaders, nurture small businesses and act as a public policy voice for businesses. Right now, our area businesses need our voice.

One of our Laurentian Chamber board members, State Representative Dave Lislegard, arranged for Chamber members Patrick and Alisa Horan of the Sawmill Saloon & Restaurant and former Virginia mayor Steve Peterson to testify to the House Select Committee on Minnesota’s Pandemic Response and Rebuilding to tell their story and urge the governor to reopen Minnesota. The governor responded later that day by turning the dial to loosen restrictions on businesses including allowing restaurants and salons to open indoor seating at 50% capacity. This was a huge win for our area businesses, but it doesn’t go far enough.

We officially joined more than 50 other local chambers and trade associations to create the Minnesota Ready campaign to urge Governor Walz to fully and safely reopen small businesses across Minnesota by June 19. This gives small business two weeks to ramp up their operations before the critical 4th of July holiday and provides them with a date they know they can fully reopen so they can properly plan to bring back staff and buy the supplies they need.

In our area we’ve been through the fishing opener and Memorial Day weekend. We haven’t seen any spike in virus activity, in fact we’ve seen it decline. As of Tuesday, St. Louis County has only reported one new case of COVID-19 in the past 10 days. Only three people are hospitalized with COVID symptoms countywide, and none of those are in the ICU. Iron Rangers have done their part. We stayed inside and slowed the spread. We allowed our medical centers to build capacity. We allowed time for our testing capacity to dramatically increase.

Our area business owners care about their customers. They care about their communities. They will behave responsibly. It is time to allow them to open.