What Safer at Home means for Madison’s economy

MADISON, Wis. — Leaders at nearly every level have expressed worries over the economic impact of Wisconsin’s Safer at Home order, and area businesses are depending on consumers to continue to help them through it.

Zach Brandon, the president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce, said businesses for the most part understand the order is what’s best for public health, but the longer it goes, the more impact it will have on the local economy.

“Our hope is we can strike that balance between the public sector and business working together,” he said.

Brandon said the chamber is telling businesses to continue paying vendors and employees as long as they can, and employees getting paid or being sent money should spend it.

“I know our natural inclination in dire economic times or unknown economic times is to hunker down, and create financial reserves for us,” he said. “But if at any point things in the economy start to grind to a halt or slow down, we’re all going to feel it.”

Brandon said those who are financially able should consider buying gift cards to local businesses, donating money and tipping well.

Bryan Gerber, the area manager at Forage Kitchen, said for businesses like his, buying gift cards would help the most.

The restaurant manager said takeout orders have stayed consistent with pre-Safer-at-Home levels, but it’s hard to tell what will come next. For now, he and his team are happy they are allowed to stay open.

“It feels good to be deemed essential that’s for sure,” Gerber said. “It’s great too that we can provide something for everyone right now that can maybe help them feel like things are a little more normal, too.”

Brandon said many business owners are confused at how the order applies to them, but the chamber has set up a portal for businesses to ask questions.

While this is a confusing time, Brandon said the region is set up to recover better than most areas of the country due to its population of millennials and 20 somethings and its diverse economy.

“When you think about our economy, we have one of the most diverse economies in the country,” he said. “Historically our community has been able to weather downturns better than other places in the country.”

He said that sets the region up to be a bright spot in helping the country recover.