Jerry Schalow Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO

New Mexico small businesses have hit a crucial time that will determine their future.  These businesses have been closed or limited for 40 days. They have had their revenues decreased 60-100 percent, and government programs to support small businesses have been a challenge to obtain.

The majority of small-business owners have exhausted their reserves, so 40 days is an ideal opportunity to have a renewal of our economy and a grand reopening, in a safe manner, of course. The challenge is that the governor on Wednesday stated New Mexico would remain in a “social distancing” mode until May 15, which is 60 days of closures.

How many people do you know that can survive on no revenue for 60 days?

As for businesses deemed non-essential, who determines what is essential? The definition of essential is “absolutely necessary, extremely important.”

Business owners’ and their employees’ livelihoods are essential to our economy and much of New Mexicans’ well-being.

Why can we not go to local retailers observing health recommendations and operating at less than 20 percent capacity? What makes a big-box store a better choice than a small business owner who is passionate about employee and customer safety?

Government agencies can raise taxes and issue bonds, while many small businesses that cannot obtain grants or loans will be forced to permanently close or file bankruptcy along with their unemployed employees.

Every business is weighing in on how the pandemic will affect its operations, employees and ability to serve customers. The decisions business owners and all levels of government make over the next weeks or months will decide if they will thrive, struggle or fail.

Building a plan to get back to a 100 percent open level is what businesses need, so they can plan for tomorrow and New Mexico can reduce unemployment and increase gross receipts tax revenue.

Time is of the essence, so we must support an effort to allow businesses to reopen in a responsible manner and have a chance to survive in our “new normal” economy.

Customers are the lifeblood of every business, and small businesses need their customers to create jobs and pay their bills. Many businesses have taken this opportunity to look at their offerings and are prepared to reopen and maintain social-distancing.

Conducting business as usual in these unprecedented, uncertain times will indeed be a challenge for us all. Businesses success in this new environment is important to reduce unemployment and save our city, county and state.

This pandemic has slowed businesses down for the short-term, but their efforts to deliver outstanding customer service is what separates small businesses from big-box stores. We all miss the service and attention to detail provided by our small businesses.

It’s time to give them the opportunity to provide their products and services at the same level as big-box stores. Our small businesses are safe to reopen and will follow health guidelines.

We need a grand reopening!

Shop small; shop local; shop in New Mexico.

(Jerry Schalow is the president and CEO of the Rio Rancho Regional Chamber of Commerce.)