Yellow still means caution.
That’s the message from Andrew Trexler, a startup business coach for the Bedford County Development Authority who works with Startup Alleghenies, a free service supported by the Appalachian Regional Commission to provide mentoring to entrepreneurs in the region.
Bedford County’s move from the “red” to the “yellow” phase of Gov. Tom Wolf’s plan to restart the state’s economy provided a big psychological lift for area businesses, Trexler said.
“Most people are just happy to open their doors,” he said.
But the uncertainty about the situation still has many business owners looking for answers.
“I’m something of a pragmatist,” he said. “I don’t know what answers I can give to people for a situation that none of us has experienced in our life,” he said.
That said, the move to yellow comes with some potential pitfalls, precisely because the situation is so fluid, he said.
“One of the biggest thing is the supply chain,” he said. “That’s something that people might not be wrapping their minds around,” he said.
Supply chain uncertainties can affect almost every sector of the economy, he pointed out.
When businesses start opening up, they need to be prepared for supply chain problems, he said.
On the other hand, he warned that just about the worst possible scenario would be for a business to invest heavily in inventory, only to be shut down again should there be a new virus spike.
“We really don’t know what’s going to happen,” he cautioned. “For all we know we could be back to red in another month.”
It’s a situation that’s already happening elsewhere, he pointed out. Earlier this week a new lockdown was ordered in Jilin Province in northeastern China after a spike of 34 new cases was reported. The new lockdown affects more than 100 million people, Bloomberg reported.
Germany also is discussing re-imposing some restrictions, Trexler said.
“Nobody wants that, but it could be the case (here),” Trexler said. “It’s a case where you hope for the best, but you prepare for the worst.”
Businesses across many sectors of the supply chain have already filed for bankruptcy, he said.
Those businesses that have reopened need to continue the practices that allowed them to do so, Trexler warned.
“Businesses going into yellow doesn’t mean the virus is gone,” he said. “They definitely need to keep the best safety practices possible.”
Trexler encourages businesses to be creative as they go forward.
“Businesses really should be thinking outside the box,” he said. “How can we bring in some revenue with a practice that we don’t have?”
He cited an instance where a movie theater owner, shut down for months with no end in sight, started bringing in some money by offering curbside pickups for theater-style popcorn.
One situation he finds concerning is the polarization that has taken place over the restart.
“For some reason this has become a very divided conversation,” he said. Much attention has been paid to each side of the debate, but “There’s not much news about the middle ground, where we need to be cautious and still go on with our daily lives.
“It’s good that we haven’t had that many (cases), and I think we’re really fortunate for that,” he said. But he observed that Bedford County, with its older population and number of long-term care facilities, is by no means in the clear.
“When we don’t practice safety, those are the people we’re putting at risk,” he said.