Chester County Commissioners Announce Formation of COVID-19 Business Task Force

Mark Hostutler
Image via Pete Bannan, MediaNews Group.

Even as Pennsylvania remains under a stay-at-home order by Gov. Tom Wolf, the Chester County Commissioners have been meeting – virtually – with business and economic leaders and health officials to formulate plans to get Chester County back to work when the impact of COVID-19 lessens.

Chester County’s approach to the restoration and continued growth of its economy is the creation of a COVID-19 Business Task Force comprised of industry leaders from throughout the county, partnered with businesses that represent geographical and size diversity.

“As days and weeks of the stay-at-home order have gone by, we have remained mindful of, and concerned about the evolving and increasing needs of the Chester County community,” Commissioner Marian Moskowitz. “In addition to our physical health, COVID-19 has attacked our mental, our emotional, and our economic health.

“So while we have been following the Governor’s stay at home order, and while we do recognize that drastic measures needed to be taken to slow the spread of coronavirus, we have also been focused on the best way to get this county quickly, but safely, up and running again.”

The mission of Chester County’s COVID-19 Business Task Force is three-fold.

First, the Task Force will provide input into business re-opening mitigation strategies developed by the Commonwealth, ensuring that those strategies are realistic, relevant, and will be adhered to by Chester County businesses.

“While our input into the Commonwealth’s ‘back to work’ strategies will be limited, it is important that we contribute to the conversation, so that our employers’ and employees’ interests are represented,” said Commissioner Josh Maxwell.

“Although we recognize the Governor’s need to focus on regional reopening, we know that Chester County has not seen the case count or mortality rates anywhere close to what other counties in the region have experienced. We are working very hard to expand testing capacity and understand the epidemiological spread of this virus, and we believe that these two actions, combined with the lower case counts, position us to be ready to re-open sooner than other parts of Southeast PA.”

The second part of the COVID-19 Business Task Force mission is to assist in distributing information and updates regarding re-opening and the sector-specific mitigation strategies that will come with re-opening.

Finally, the Task Force will participate in, and guide the development of Chester County’s economic recovery plan.

“Prior to this pandemic, Chester County had a diverse and robust economy with the lowest unemployment rate in Pennsylvania,” said Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “It is time to revisit our economic development strategy and rework it, given the new environment we are in.

“Now that we find ourselves in the early phases of a COVID-19 response, this is the time to begin the development of an economic recovery plan. We see the new plan as a stepped approach to reshaping and restoring Chester County’s robust economy in a post-COVID-19 world.”

Chester County’s COVID-19 Business Task Force will consist of two groups: a core team and an advisory committee.

The core team will comprise organizations that serve the entire county as well as representatives from each of the county’s chambers of commerce. Core team representatives include Chester County’s Agricultural Development Council, Association of Township Officials, Chamber of Business & Industry, Conference & Visitors Bureau, Department of Community Development, Economic Development Council, Planning Commission, Municipal Managers Consortium, and the Chester County Intermediate Unit.

The advisory committee will consist of organizations that represent and interact with the many industries in Chester County and will be of varying sizes from across the whole of the county.

Industries that will be represented include agricultural, bio/pharma, breweries and distilleries, childcare, conservation/environment/open space, construction, finance, gig economy workers, hospitals, human services, legal, lodging, long-term care, manufacturing, municipalities, non-profits, real estate, retail, restaurants and food service, schools and universities, technology, tourism, and transportation.

Membership of the Chester County’s COVID-19 Business Task Force core team is being established and will begin meeting in early May. Members of each industry identified as part of the advisory committee will be established in the coming weeks.