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Member Message
Plan needed to safely re-open Wisconsin economy, petition to Gov. Evers

Dear Oshkosh Chamber Members:


Yesterday, the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce, along with 18 other statewide business associations and 33 local chambers of commerce, sent a letter to Gov. Tony Evers calling on his administration to put together a plan that allows the state’s economy to get moving again starting on April 24. 

While the last several weeks have rightfully focused on protecting people, it is time to design a plan on how we can prepare to restart the economy and get people back to work. This morning’s headline in the Wall Street Journal – “Millions More File Jobless Claims” – is a strong signal that action needs to take place, with more than 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment last week. This is slightly down from the almost 6.9 million that filed the previous week, but it is still almost 10 times higher than the previous weekly high hit way back in 1982. Over the last three weeks, almost 17 million Americans have filed for unemployment, a truly shocking figure. Hopefully, this is the peak of those filing claims and most of these workers will quickly go back to work once the economy is unlocked.

However, as we deal with coronavirus issues, measures designed to slow the pandemic’s spread have disrupted business. Businesses have been asked to put their livelihoods on hold, at significant economic and personal costs. People that have invested everything into their business stand to lose it all. This economic disruption is fueling a national debate as to when to ease restrictions.

The Trump administration is laying the foundation to push for a reopening of parts of the U.S. economy as early as the beginning of May amid rising pressure over unemployment numbers. But even with an aggressive approach and optimistic outlook, the decision to reopen the economy may largely be out of the federal government’s hands. This decision is in the hands of Governor Evers. It will be the Governor that will determine when it is safe to reopen businesses. However, he has an obligation to develop a plan to restart the economy, along with developing a safe return to work strategy.

We are all expecting this to conclude someday. When it does, what is the staging and phasing of the necessary tactics to restart business? Lately, I have been on a number of conference calls featuring various Wisconsin Department Secretaries. When asked about the State’s re-opening business strategy, none of them had an answer. That’s a real problem. Modeling seems to indicate that the “Safer at Home” order may continue until at least mid-May.  Consequently, the business community needs guidance from the State in order to effectively and safely open for business when that time arrives. We are not looking for a date certainty; we are looking for a plan that is certain. Businesses will adapt; but as you know, businesses want and need certainty in order to operate.

To that end, we wanted to let you know of an opportunity to lend your support to “Restart Wisconsin’s Economy.” For those of you that are supportive of restarting the economy consistent with Governor Evers’ original date, you can have your voice heard.  This WMC online petition allows individual businesses to weigh in on the topic of gradually reopening the economy. The petition will be shared with Governor Evers and members of the Wisconsin Legislature.


Restarting our economy will not happen overnight, and it likely will not be all at once. However, the business community and Governor Evers need to work together on a plan that determines what industries and what areas of Wisconsin can open safely, along with a timeline. This guidance is imperative. 


John Casper

President & CEO