JJ Hollie, president and CEO of The Woodlands Area Chamber of Commerce, said members in the retail and restaurant industries are expressing excitement about getting a green light to reopen to start bringing in revenue, though they can only operate at 25% of their capacity per Abbott's orders.
Other industries, including hair salons and gyms, however, are expressing frustration about being excluded in the first round of reopening.
"At the end of the day, none of us want to see a spike in the coronavirus cases that would force us to re-close," Hollie said. "There's a balance that has to be struck here, and I think Gov. Abbott is doing the best he can under the circumstances."
Gil Staley, CEO of The Woodlands Area Economic Development Partnership, echoed Staley's comments, adding the 25% capacity is a start, and he predicts that employees who are able to work from home for the time being will continue to do so.
"We’ve sent out surveys to the major employers trying to get a feel of how they’re responding," Staley said. "A lot of people, a lot of companies, have been working virtually, quite honestly, but we’re seeing more and more at least looking at going back to operation in their respective offices. If they’re able to work effectively at home, we’re seeing that that might stay that way with some businesses, not all.”
Hollie added he is hoping for additional reopenings every two weeks or so, though the schedule will be dependent on the number of coronavirus cases and whether they are beginning to decrease.
For the operating capacity issues, Hollie said there may be a slight struggle for establishments to stay below 25%. Restaurants, he said, will have an easier time controlling their numbers, as seating can be easily limited and access can be limited through reservations.
"That's going to have a negative impact on your ability to rehire workers, but you're going to have the opportunity to bring in some revenue and rehire some people," Hollie said. "In a couple of weeks, you can go to 50%. We haven't heard any number yet, but we are hoping it will go from 50% to 100% pretty quickly."
On the other hand, Hollie said retail might have a bit more trouble limiting numbers, which is being looked into at this time.
Market Street Marketing Director Noemi Gonzalez said the retail center trusts its retailers and restaurants will adhere to state guidelines established by leaders as they have leading up to the reopening May 1.
Moving forward, Staley said getting local businesses up and running again will be incredibly beneficial to the local economy, though the energy sector will need to see a bounce back before the area economy as a whole will begin to recover.
"...Getting the economy strong with oil still trading now below $20, I think the last time I checked this morning it was $12.60, something in that area, that is significantly below profitability for producers and for the service companies that support those producers," Staley said. "So it’s still going to be a tough road ahead until we see oil prices come back to where they can become profitable.”
Staley added seeing people out and about will also help indicate a returning economy.