Crisis management has once again reared its ugly head. Unlike the recent floods over which city management had no control, this time the warning signs were unmistakable. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic were almost immediate as one major tourist event after another was canceled, and all but essential businesses were temporally shuttered.

With disaster looming, our city manager elected to maintain the status quo while preparing the new budget, and the mayor and city council agreed. As the crisis deepened, businesses dependent on tourism for survival began to flounder. It was obvious something had to be done. After initially doing nothing, panic set in.

After the Chamber of Commerce pleaded for help, city officials decided the best course of action was to follow the feds' lead and adopt a stimulus program, but unlike the feds, the city can’t just print money. The Pendleton Development Commission will instead head to the bank for a loan. It’s a pretty slick way to finance a project without using the general fund.

Many questions remain. Why rescue only restaurants and ignore other businesses affected by the pandemic? Why are local banks unwilling to support our local businesses, yet willing to loan money to the city to support this program? I guess you’d have to ask Steve Campbell, the banker on the city council.

Tourism was used as the primary reason to save the restaurants, but what about the hotels? With no tourists, some will also be forced to close permanently. Perhaps the aim is to eliminate some unwanted competition as the city itself enters the hospitality business, constructing hotels at both the airport and convention center. It wouldn’t be the first time the city has put its business interests ahead of a local entrepreneur. When Gale Marshall elected to protest their actions that adversely effected his business, the reply from city officials was simple — “business is business.”

Long-term success in business means learning to change with the times.

Starbucks, for instance, added mobile ordering to its smartphone app and closed or relocated many stores that had no drive-up service. Its success is reflected in its stock performance. Businesses like Sears and JC Penney failed to adapt and are now on the road to bankruptcy. That ability to adapt, not short-term subsidies, will determine which businesses survive.

Rick Rohde


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