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Columbus Business Leaders Say Reviving Local Economy Will Take 'Perseverance'

An encouraging message displayed on the marquee at the Newport music venue reads "We will get through this Cbus."
Ryan Hitchcock
/
WOSU
An encouraging message displayed on the marquee at the Newport music venue reads "We will get through this Cbus."

With the percentage of unemployed workers in Franklin County now in the double digits, some local business leaders say it will take time before the city returns to full economic strength.

Alex Fischer, president and CEO of the Columbus Partnership, spoke to a virtual audience Wednesday as part of the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s weekly event. He says he expects a slow return for businesses as they adjust to a new economic landscape, even as the state loosens COVID-19 restrictions.

“What that’s going to mean from a macro-level is going to be, what we hope to be, steady growth coming back,” Fischer says. “But it’s going to be slow growth and it’s going to require a lot of perseverance.”

Fischer says Columbus will be a leader in the state because of its diversified economy.

“We have a special responsibility from that standpoint,” Fischer says. “And the diversity of our economy will help us come back quicker than many others.”

Gov. Mike DeWine allowed all office workers to return to their job sites on May 4. Manufacturing, distribution and construction businesses also received the go-ahead to re-open. May 12 marks the re-opening for retail and service businesses. 

DeWine is expected Thursday to set a date to re-open full-service restaurants, hospitality, and entertainment-related businesses.

Speaking at the virtual event, restauranteur Cameron Mitchell says he's ready to bring back his employees. In March, Mitchell closed all 36 of his restaurants in 12 states, and laid off 4,500 workers. Another 1,200 workers at 23 Rusty Bucket franchises, run by a sister company, were also laid off.

Mitchell says he expects to slowly build back up as demand grows. He's asked some employees to take a 20% pay cut for a four-day work week.

“That way we’re able to bring everybody back in the office, everybody back in our restaurant teams and hopefully all of our full-time associates back,” Mitchell says.

Fischer says some businesses may continue to be flexible about employees working from home.

“Interestingly, a lot of companies are realizing that this work-from-home experiment is an experiment that works and are making plans to think about how to allow more flexibility in the workforce, where it makes sense and where they can,” Fischer says.