By many estimates, California is better positioned for economic recovery as we emerge from the coronavirus crisis than any other state in the nation.
While the state isn’t quite yet out of the woods, Orange County itself is ready to open. Monitoring trend lines of the disease to determine when and how to reopen business is a smart strategy.
How we will fare is not purely a numbers game, however.
Where the Golden State really shines—always, but particularly in times of crisis—is in its intellectual capital; the ingenuity of its people, a good portion of which are right here in Orange County. Arguably, one area where Orange County outshines other counties—and states for that matter—is that our economy is built on strong, modern, diverse business sectors. This is where Irvine’s role is key.
Irvine is the heart of Orange County, both geographically and in terms of economic strength. Like California, Irvine entered the COVID-19 crisis from a position of strength. The visionary Irvine Master Plan laid the groundwork for the city’s sound economy, diverse business portfolio, technological capabilities, and cross-sector partnerships. Those assets will help keep businesses online and more workers employed while we comply with evolving stay-in-place orders, mitigating economic damage we undoubtedly face.
Irvine has another powerful weapon to fight the disease.
Irvine is home to strong innovative sectors in healthcare, life science, biomedicine, research, and technology—all that are addressing COVID-19 and leading the way in coming up with solutions to help us emerge from this crisis, sooner rather than later.
Life science and medical technology companies with major Irvine operations, including AbbVie Inc., Bio-Medical Devices International Inc., Edwards Lifesciences Corp., Masimo Corp., and Medtronic PLC, as well as others, are developing and manufacturing products from wearable monitoring devices and ventilators to high-tech face shields for medical workers to help deliver life-saving care to patients.
Researchers, medical personnel, and students at University of California-Irvine are making discoveries that will help treat and cure patients with coronavirus, as well as help prevent future outbreaks. UCI Health launched a clinical trial to test the viability of a potential therapy for COVID-19 patients using a drug once developed to treat the Ebola virus.
The highly trained medical teams of other Irvine healthcare institutions are conducting research and clinical trials of their own to find vaccines for treating coronavirus patients. Among them, City of Hope is addressing the coronavirus threat on a number of fronts, including the preclinical development of a coronavirus vaccine.
On the business front, chambers of commerce and business associations and coalitions nationwide have been fighting hard to influence lawmakers to enact policies that provide urgently needed resources for businesses affected by coronavirus. Here in Orange County, they are working together to help businesses and communities stay strong.
The Greater Irvine Chamber, Orange County Business Council, and other chambers and organizations across the county joined forces to urge the Orange County Board of Supervisors to compel Gov. Gavin Newsom to open Orange County within weeks, not months.
Superseding any statewide plans, a four-county urban plan, guided by medical and public health criteria, makes earlier reopening of our region’s economy a responsible act. Orange County is unique: we have a relatively low number of infections, and there is ample available hospital capacity and testing opportunities that enable the county to move more quickly through the state’s four prescribed stages for reopening.
In fact, Orange County has met the 11 criteria required for reopening, so county officials have sent a letter of attestation to the Governor’s office to approve the action.
Working together, the city of Irvine’s management team and the Greater Irvine Chamber have reached out to more than 21,000 companies alerting them to federal financial resources and offering direct assistance in applying for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and the Paycheck Protection Program, and accessing opportunities provided by the Small Business Administration.
Companies are telling us that they want to reopen as soon as possible. But they want to do so responsibly; they want to protect their most valuable assets—their workers, as well as their customers.
To be certain, we face challenges and hardships as we deal with the health, societal, and economic pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. But, along with our many community partners, the Greater Irvine Chamber provides a path to economic recovery. We have compiled federal, state, and local resources for businesses, employers, and workers that have been impacted by this crisis, as well as information to help guide businesses as they prepare to reopen. You can find them on our website: greaterirvinechamber.com/emergency-business-resources.
Strong communities are made up of resilient and innovative individuals and businesses—those that courageously continue to work to find solutions, especially during times of crisis. You can be confident knowing that the Greater Irvine Chamber is partnering with other organizations to sustain our community’s well-being.
May you and your loved ones remain healthy and safe. Let’s get back to business.
Editor’s Note: Bryan Starr is CEO and president of the Greater Irvine Chamber, and its economic development and tourism marketing divisions. The organization’s 18 professional staff continue to work remotely to provide short- and long-term economic solutions in response to disruptions caused by COVID-19.