Editorial: Some parts of local economy not yet affected

Published 9:30 pm Saturday, March 21, 2020

Here’s a curious contrast: as some businesses are looking at or living a future that includes closing their doors or a reduced number of employees, others are still hiring.

It’s an example of the fact that the economy is suffering tremendously as a result of the spread of coronavirus and decisions that local, state and national leaders have made to prioritize health. But it’s also a sign that this is not an economic downturn that will affect all sectors of society equally. The head of the county’s tourism agency says employers in his area of focus are already hard hit, but the Rowan County Economic Development Commission says a number of local businesses are still hiring.

Aldi’s warehouse last week held a job fair and attracted a good crowd of interested applicants. The Rowan EDC distributed an email list that included Aldi among other businesses that are still hiring: Food Lion, Chewy, Snow Joe, Imperial Supplies, Gildan and McKenzie Sports Products.

Particularly if people continue panic-buying, Food Lion and Aldi are examples of businesses that seem unlikely to be negatively affected, even if our national shutdown becomes a lockdown. Both provide groceries and other household products, which are much-needed regardless of whether people are told to stay home or free to gather in groups for extended periods of time, which too many folks are still doing now. As for what’s thought to be the largest job announcement in Rowan County’s history, Chewy.com, people with pets will still need food and supplies for their furry, scaled or winged friends.

If our brief economic dip becomes a recession, community institutions like the Rowan EDC and others must continue directing people to job sectors where there are openings so that folks who want to work are able to do so. That may require retraining, but Rowan-Cabarrus Community College is equipped to do that for as many people as are interested.

In what seems like a particularly important part of that equation, the Rowan EDC and Salisbury-based Global Contact Services have launched a job-matching tool called Connect Rowan. It asks those looking for a job to fill out information for a candidate profile. Those looking to fill positions can contact the Rowan EDC for access to the portal and reach out to them directly.

But job-matching tools won’t be the only resource needed. Directing people to open jobs may not be enough either.

Lately, the economy has benefited employees — there have been more open jobs than employees qualified and interested in filling them. If that changes in conjunction with a prolonged recession, items like the COVID-19 Relief Fund announced today by the Rowan County United Way and the Salisbury Post will be vital to making sure people can stay in their homes, purchase groceries, keep the lights on and water running. Those between jobs will need help, too, because paychecks don’t start coming in the day people start a job. Often, there’s a gap between one job and another.

This is a moment when people in elected office and those in leadership roles in at community institutions must lead by example, helping local agencies and businesses collaborate and finding ways to help those who need it.