I will never forget my morning drive to work the day the business shut down went into effect one year ago. I arrived at the office in record time because the roads were empty. My car was the only one parked within five blocks on main street. When I got into our office, I was the only one there because I had asked the rest of the Chamber team to work remotely for their own safety. It was a stark contrast to the downtown Round Rock that had been so alive with people and activity just a few days before. It was a sad and profoundly unsettling moment.
Now, with the arrival of vaccines, so too will come the long-awaited return to economic normalcy. A turn of events we all celebrate. As the supply of vaccines continues to increase, so do the groups of people encouraged to take them. The state announced last week they were now available to all ages 50 and above.
The central Texas economy was a “tale of two cities”. The first – bars, restaurants, hospitality, entertainment – was hit by successive waves of layoffs and closures. The second – industry, manufacturing, technology, general office related business, construction – continued to move along, almost unhindered. Opportunity Austin had its most successful year of business expansion and recruitment in its existence. Round Rock saw Kalahari open and seven additional new business announcements, generating thousands of new jobs.
After the weight of coronavirus has been removed, the national economy will return to normal growth. Economists throughout the state predict continued rapid growth. The greater Austin MSA is now at the epicenter of one of the most desirable locations for both businesses and residents. The world is beating a path to our door.
That will mean a return to the “old” pains. Traffic will return. The housing market never even slowed down in 2020 and will only heat up more as the national economy continues to expand. However, I think most of us would agree those are better challenges to have than the pandemic.
Many who have lived with economic uncertainty or joblessness in 2020 are certain to return to employment in 2021, which is fantastic news. We celebrate with them, and the businesses they work for as they return to normal operations.
It’s time to get back to work and get back to living our lives. I could not be more excited to see our community restaurants and bars back to the full, vibrant activity that allows us to be with those we care about.
Let’s get prepared, its time to get back to work.