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Duffy on Rochester's economy after COVID-19: ‘Without small business, our economy tanks!’

Deanna Dewberry
Created: April 07, 2020 07:53 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — The coronavirus has not only sickened almost 140,000 New Yorkers, but it has also led analysts to ponder whether our ailing economy will fully recover. 

That's especially true in Rochester, where small business is our backbone. Without small businesses, in the words of the Greater Rochester Chamber of Commerce president Bob Duffy, “our economy tanks.”  

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Here is a portion of Duffy’s lengthy interview with News10NBC’S Deanna Dewberry.

Duffy: "We've heard from countless businesses, a lot who have said they probably will not be able to reopen. They can't sustain two, three, four, five weeks with no revenue."

Dewberry: "How does this compare to 2008, because you were mayor of this city during that horrible recession."

Duffy: "I think the most profound part of that was money just dried up, so if you had funding for projects it just stopped. There certainly were economic impacts and jobs that were affected, but not to the level that you see right now. We have whole industries closing down. You look at the hospitality industry… and companies that have had to lay off or furlough their entire workforce."

Duffy: “Listening to some of the experts, I would agree. It’s [economic recovery] not going to be instantaneous. If on May 15th the governor says ‘Okay, everything is back open,’ on May 16th the economic impacts do not go away. We're going to be feeling this until the end of this year into next year and in some cases far beyond."

And Rochester is not unique. That's why Congress created the $350 billion small business lending program called the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP. It is part of the $2 trillion stimulus package passed last month.

Dewberry: "How much might that help small businesses in our area?"

Duffy: "I do believe any help now is a lifeline for these businesses. Our Monroe County executive came up with a $10,000 no-interest loan which I thought was terrific… You can bet on day one when this process opened up the banks were flooded with applications. I just hope there is enough money for those that need it."

Dewberry: "So that's your fear, that this $350 billion for this small business loan program might not be enough?"

Duffy: "I don't think it will be. I think it's a great start, and I applaud the president and Congress for passing it. They did come together and pass it after some dialogue but… I do believe that adding on and adding more money is a prudent move, and I think it's one that will be welcomed by the small business community.”

Duffy believes when we emerge from this crisis, ours will be a city changed but not beaten, down, but not out. 

Duffy: "We've gone through a lot of issues over the years with downsizing and what have you. We're pretty resilient and pretty tough, so whatever the pain is we're going to get through it."

Dewberry: "That’s the Bob Duffy optimism we all know and love!"

Duffy: "We're going to come out of this stronger than when we first went into it. I believe that."

Duffy stresses that our recovery will be largely dependent on us, Rochester consumers.  

Will fear of this virus continue to alter consumer behavior after the crisis is over?    

Will we eat out less, avoid crowds; watch Netflix instead of going to the movies?  

Duffy believes our eventual psychosocial recovery from this crisis will largely determine the strength of our economic recovery.


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