On Labor Day weekend last year, I learned a lesson that has proven to be so helpful today. A visiting priest spoke to the congregation at the church where my family and I attend. “Don’t ever take this lightly,” he advised that morning. “Work is not a four-letter word!”

“Imagine your world without it,” he said from the pulpit. Then he questioned the congregation during his homily to help us properly absorb the idea. “How would you fill your day? How would you feed your family or satisfy their needs? And, finally, how would you know how to be thankful for your free time when it’s all yours to enjoy?”

As we hunker down during this pandemic, his words have proven to be prophetic. In the North Bay, the gift of work has been stolen from thousands of workers by no fault of their own. Construction projects have been cancelled. Brick-and-mortar retailers have been devastated. Hundreds of golf, athletic and fitness jobs furloughed. Schools, churches, and social clubs are locked down. And my own industries in media, automotive and automotive service have been choked or shuttered. But everything pales next to the drastic—and perhaps lasting—impact this virus has had on those working in the tourism and hospitality industries.

Their lives have been shredded. Regrettably, returning to a 50- or 70-percent capacity of former volume won’t fix this issue either; the profit margins are too thin to allow for continuation without a profit. In the feature “Tourism, Hospitality & COVID-19,” Jane Hodges Young provides an in-depth look at how leaders in these industries are coping and the creative, sometimes drastic strategies they’re employing to provide the best chances for rebirth. As Jane shares, selecting which business opportunities to focus on first is essential for the survival of these industries.

But some folks, and only a few, are thriving in the midst of this chaos by filling new needs. Bo Kearns reports on several North Bay companies that are manufacturing hand sanitizer in the feature, “It’s On—Hand Sanitizer Just Got Real.” Nationwide, sanitizing lotion sales are up 67 percent. During one week in February, sales increased by 1,300 percent for just one brand produced by Marin County’s EO Products. Distilleries are jumping in as well, and Bo’s got all the intel on how they’re making the best of a very bad situation.

Meanwhile—and admirably—Santa Rosa’s Medtronic Industries has doubled production lines to create life-saving ventilators at its Irish manufacturing plant. And Sutter Health’s Jesse Rael worked overtime to collect face masks throughout the North Bay for front-line, health-care workers. He garnered a substantial response from the community with the help of a few key employees at Ron Nersesian’s Keysight Technologies, who used their marketing expertise to amplify the message. Jean Doppenberg covers the story in this exclusive write up. Be sure to check out what Dr. Rael has to say at the back of the magazine, normally reserved for Beyond the Boardroom, a light feature designed to help readers get to know area business leaders outside of work. On occasion, we replace it with Local Heroes to shine a spotlight on those, such as Dr. Rael, who go above and beyond to help others.

Editor Karen Hart reached out to some of our area’s most influential business leaders to get their first-hand take on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted, altered and sometimes devastated their businesses, and how they’ve rallied to help their employees and communities. Find out what they have to say during this historic time.

As you read through this special edition, I’m hopeful the worst of this pandemic’s health crisis is behind us. And while it would be foolish to ignore appropriate measures to maintain this decline, we’re encouraged to see that the number of COVID-19 infections is not climbing as fast as the dramatic number of “negative” results our testing information is showing us. This is surely a good thing. Our attention must now focus on balancing our physical health, alongside our need for economic health. Knowing the science behind the virus is the best vantage point to weigh this discussion, and writer Judy Wilson offers an in-depth look at COVID-19 to bring you up-to-date. She’s combined the latest on what we’ve learned about this novel coronavirus’ origin, its manner of infectious spread, local efforts and how the scientific community is working together to produce a vaccine to eradicate it.

While I’m not sure I’ll ever meet the priest who reminded me last year of the value of work, his words will resonate for years to come.

Please take them to heart. Do your part to safely, equitably and rapidly bring these treacherous days to an end. Do your homework, make your point succinct and actionable, and share it with your elected officials. Together, we can lead our economy and lives to a more productive path. May the word “work” never be seen in a bad light again. Let’s keep in touch. Write to me anytime at Lawrence@NorthBaybiz.com.

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