Now that we have seen the last of the COVID-19 restrictions in Saint Paul, the question on everyone’s mind continues to be: “what does ‘return to the office’ look like and when? For your Chamber, our office is back to regular office hours on Monday, August 2. We have missed you and hope you stop by! And in-person events pick up again this Fall as well.
I’m talking to the larger companies downtown, and they are bringing back employees already, on a volunteer basis. The parking ramps are filling up, traffic is increasing – dramatically. But late Q3-Q4 is the target for more mandatory “return to office” plans. Smaller companies seem to be bringing employees back more quickly, many fully staffed in office already. The return, most definitely, is underway.
The issue remains: what will we see when return? The St. Paul Downtown Alliance is programming a calendar of #WelcomeBackStPL events, kicking off this week, on June 10, with Lowertown Sounds. The idea? Come back downtown, experience the activity. The Flint Hills Family Festival already is underway, continuing through June 12. Know you are so very welcome!
I’ve also had conversations with employers who remain tense about public safety downtown St. Paul. And about the increase in people experiencing homelessness. How will these two issues impact our experience as we return? Aah, the crux of the matter. And what is the Chamber’s role in these issues? We are choosing, very intentionally, to participate in the conversations – in the work. We don’t stand outside them; we, too, operate downtown. Instead, we communicate actively with the City, share our members’ concerns, highlight areas that are specific problems, convey updates back to you from the Mayor’s office as we get them. Both are under extraordinary pressure, and are committing every possible resource towards both.
Across the East Metro overall, companies are returning to office more quickly than anticipated. And people are out and about! I’ve been shopping along Grand, through Stillwater, have taken the boys over to Maplewood Mall, Rosedale, and MOA…. and traffic is high wherever I go. And restaurants are full! Clearly, we are experiencing the pent-up demand that is bringing people out.
See you in the trenches.
According to the MDH: as of Sunday, the state has seen daily case counts under 300 for five of the last seven days. Based on test results, that translates to 1.1% positivity rate. Over the last week, the year to day average positivity rate is under 3%. , indicating a low rate of community transmission.
Over 2.9M Minnesotans over the age of 12 now have at least 1 vaccine dose, which is 52.6% of the state’s 12+ population.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has issued new vaccine guidance for employers. But gray areas remain in terms of mandates, incentives, and confidentiality requirements.
So where are we? Nationally, in May the U.S. added a modest 559,000 jobs, an improvement from April - but still evidence of ongoing hiring struggles.
And the recovery continues to be uneven. According to a small survey recently conducted by Alignable, 35% of small businesses might not survive the summer.
And in Saint Paul? It’s really a mixed bag. Construction is strong in 2020 with new rentals, Green Line Development. And yet, a year after riots, 35 of 270 impacted St. Paul businesses remain closed. The private sector and philanthropic community continue to invest in this regeneration: your Chamber, in partnership with the Midway Chamber of Commerce and the Saint Paul Downtown Alliance, so far has distributed over $1M to many of these companies. More work is still underway to inject more capital into the local economy from private sector/philanthropic community investments:
Governor Walz, House Speaker Hortman, and Senate Majority Leader Gazelka say they’d drop partisan priorities to avoid a state shutdown.
That said, nearly 38,000 state employees have begun receiving layoff notices – just in case. And the budget deal includes several provisions left out of their ‘global agreement,’ including additional tax cuts and funding to help Minneapolis and St. Paul rebuild buildings and property damaged in the unrest following the killing of George Floyd last year. On this last point, your Chamber has sent a letter to state leadership strongly encouraging them of the urgent need for such funding.
Read more updates in our weekly Chamber Advocacy Update.
Ordway Center for the Performing Arts to Reopen Its Doors this September! Watch for news on what's included in their season soon.
I’ve saved this article on leadership lessons from 5 outstanding women in business from March, originally written in honor of International Women’s Day. These women have grown their businesses, overcome challenges, and serve as an inspiration for all.
Progress does continue on the Snelling/Midway site. The City is expected to issue a demolition permit within days, to take down the Midway Shopping Center, destroyed last May.