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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

May 12, 2020

Rural Businesses Should Consider Post-COVID-19 Strategies

Submitted by Pat Melgares

As stay-at-home orders end and stores begin to reopen, the leader of one of the state’s leading rural development organizations says it is a time for business owners to reconsider their strategy as it relates to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I call it the three R's: Re-orientation, re-energizing, and resilience,” said Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development with K-State Research and Extension.

“Customer expectations and worker expectations have changed. As businesses reopen, owners need to re-orient their business plans and facilities to assure a higher level of disease protection. This means providing physical barriers, arranging for adequate spacing, providing masks to employees, and emphasizing constant sanitation, as many ongoing businesses have done.”

Business owners should be sure to carefully comply with local health department directives, he said.

“The second ‘R’ is re-energizing,” Wilson said. “It will be important to rebuild the local economy as quickly as possible, while following the phased guidelines for reopening.” Many supply chains have been disrupted in the short-term, but markets are adjusting. “We believe there will be pent-up demand for certain products, and we encourage businesses to advertise, hire staff, and continue to emphasize customer service,” he said.

“Resilience has to do with planning for the long-term,” Wilson said, noting that the challenges posed by the pandemic and the resulting policy response have demonstrated the importance of communication between a business and its suppliers and lenders.

In the future, businesses might also wish to pursue improving their online presence and ordering systems, for example. “Business owners should always be thinking about building relationships and positioning themselves for the future,” Wilson said.

He added that businesses should take direction on local policies from each county and its health department. Information on best practices for reopening can also be accessed from K-State Research and Extension, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Kansas Department of Commerce.

“Main street businesses face a lot of challenges,” Wilson said. “The economy will benefit if consumers support those businesses as they move carefully to reopen."