Today I’d like to talk about our plans to shift our economy out of low gear as we look to life after the worst of this health crisis has passed.
I am optimistic about our economy and our ability to recover. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had been expanding business and creating jobs at a pace that led to months of the lowest unemployment rates in the state’s history.
That was dynamic growth that Arkansans built on a firm foundation of agriculture, tourism, small business, retail, and technology growth. In Arkansas, we have extraordinary entrepreneurs that are part of Arkansas’s DNA. Our labor force is smart, creative, enthusiastic, hardworking, determined, and always willing to learn new skills.
Although COVID-19 staggered our economy, it did not damage the foundation, which is why I am assured we will be fine in the long run. This is a set-back that won’t hold us back for long.
One of the things I did as I considered the best path for Arkansas was to study the White House’s blueprint for Opening Up America Again. This plan is in four phases, and the plan serves as a common roadmap for all the states. Yet it is designed to be flexible and adjusted to the unique circumstances of each state.
The move to reopen the economy must be based on up-to-date data; it must protect the most vulnerable; and it must minimize the risk of a resurgence. Based on those guidelines, I set May 4 as the date that Arkansas would begin lifting some of the restrictions we have put in place since March 11.
To guide us in the process, I created the Governor’s Economic Recovery Task Force and appointed 27 leaders from around the state to serve on it. I have asked the group to present an initial report by May 4. All of their recommendations will be guided by the best ongoing public health information. The task force includes representatives from across all facets of life – health care, athletics and physical fitness, education, the faith community, agriculture, tourism, small business, and industry.
Steuart Walton, a business leader and entrepreneur, will chair the group. Steuart is engaged in the hospitality, manufacturing, and retail industries, and he understands the needs of small business.
Arkansas’s road back to recovery won’t be easy, but there is a road back. I am confident of that. I look forward to seeing the initial recommendations on how we can reinvigorate our business, build consumer confidence, and assure the best public health standards.
Editor’s note: This commentary was provided by the office of Gov. Asa Hutchinson. The opinions expressed are those of the author.