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Midday West Michigan

MiBiz with Mark Sanchez

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Patrick Center: "Wednesday afternoon time for our bimonthly conversation with MiBiz senior writer Mark Sanchez. Schools are preparing to reopen some virtual, some face to face, some hybrid, what is the role of employers to get schools back up and running."

Mark Sanchez: "Right now offer their employees a whole lot of flexibility and understanding. The upcoming year students are going back to school whether elementary, middle school, high school, colleges. We've seen from colleges already very quickly, Notre Dame, North Carolina already very quickly put that only after a week, no we better go to all online instruction. Michigan State’s another one of those with the announcement from president Stanley yesterday. They're trying. They’ve had months to think about this but, the situation is so fluid and changing so rapidly and just how infectious this corona virus is. Somebody goes out you know, it's not unusual for teenagers to have parties when they first go to campus, this is what happened in some instances, but schools are trying to reopen they're trying to get students back and do instruction and our cover story this week written by Andy Balaskovitz of MiBiz just talks about some of those issues that schools are going through in trying to plan this out and trying to get some resemblance of normality in really what is not normal times. We talk a little bit about what the role of employers. Basically if you have a group of employers they’ve been working at home and they have young children at home 6, 7, 8, years old that they have to go to school if that school districts going to in classroom instruction or if they're just doing the online instruction who's going to be with those kids? Who's going to help them through that if they're too young to be doing this on their own? That's where the employees need a lot of flexibility and a lot of understanding from their employer right now. We have seen some, we talked to one where she's a tutor, she’s been busy she’s been signing up parents to offer that tutoring here in Grand Rapids. You know you can say, you should do this, we should do this, we should do this, everybody learns differently and everybody needs to adapt to their circumstances. It's not an easy equation for schools right now it certainly hasn't been an easy question for any employer out there for the last 6 months either so it its one more of those things that gets thrown into the equation of having to navigate and manage through this. Everybody try to give each other a little bit of slack and understanding."

Patrick Center: "Well as a parent we had the dry run earlier this year. And we were keeping our fingers crossed that you know things would change- they have not. The number schools are approaching this differently. We’re in that hybrid boat, so 2 parents working, I'm concerned about those single parents out there how they're going to pull this off. You want to stay home and you want to be able to work from home, but the reality is you're kind of there teaching too so your focus gets split and I'm hopeful that employers they did receive a taste of this earlier they now have that understanding moving forward. This is a complex situation."

Mark Sanchez: "Yeah, I’ve been saying this for months. There's no easy solution. There's no one answer, there's no simple answer. This is a complex situation and as you said it, it takes a lot of thinking things through and what may be a solution today might not be workable solution tomorrow. That’s how fluid this situation is as we saw at some of the college's students reported and very quickly we started seeing positive test rates and outbreaks at some of these campuses so they had to pivot real fast, and say no, we’re going to do this instead. There's no plug and play model here everybody’s trying to work their way through it and navigate the situation, the best way they can."

Patrick Center: "No surprise here. This is our entire conversation Mark everything has changed really. Since February/March that includes we're seeing this expansion. This growth in Tele-health."

Mark Sanchez: "Yeah, Tele-health just exploded in the spring when the hospitals were no longer able to do non-essential procedures and surgeries, when physician practices had to close for non-essential patient visits. All your health systems, a lot of your medical or all your medical practices urged folks to go to their tele-health or tele-medicine platforms if you were feeling symptoms or if you had something else or you needed to check in for your 6 month visit if you have high cholesterol and had your blood testing done. You can do these visits virtually for basic primary care or consultations. And the rates were just off the charts the rate in the use of tele-health just skyrocketed but, that's really put some attention to one of the issues, one of the barriers for telehealth to really take hold even further in everybody says it's here it's not going away. Doctors like using it, even the many doctors who were reluctant to use it had to use it. They’re now sold out at patients who didn't use it before, they had to use it. The satisfaction rates are quite high in some of the reports I’ve seen but, there's an issue and that’s in the rural markets around Michigan where tele-health really has great promise to extend access to care when you have position shortages and access issues in these rural markets in Michigan and this comes from associate professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University who had a paper published recently her name is Kelly Hirko. And it showed 40% of Michigan residents who live in rural areas lack high speed internet access that contrasts to just 3% in urban areas. So if you're that person living in that rural market and a lot of those gaps are are in kinda in the northern lower Peninsula, although clear throughout the state we have some in the markets around here where folks have limited or very narrow options for broadband. She says some of that’s problematic because it limits access to basic care and oh by the way in some of these rural markets they tend to have an older population living there and you have higher incidence rates of chronic illness such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity rates are higher so here’s an area in these rural markets were tele-health can really help and holds a lot of promise but, you have this barrier to access in the terms of the lack availability and that broadband activity that folks need."

Patrick Center: "There's a lot of talk of expanding broadband into rural areas but, that will as you say that's that's a process. We'll stick with the pandemic and its impacts and surprisingly at least to me you may tell me otherwise here but, new business applications are on the rise."

Mark Sanchez: "Yeah, this was surprising. This came out. In last week the small business Association of Michigan publishes an annual report its kind of a entrepreneurial scorecard to look at how our entrepreneurial economy is doing in Michigan and then reporting there 2020 report last week which was delayed from the spring. The gentleman Grant *inaudible* runs the gross economic inc and he compiles this data each year just dozens if not hundreds of metrics he looks at *inaudible *6:51*. One of the things he looked at, this year he pulled up data from the US Census Bureau and that data shows through the 31st week of 2019 in the 31st week through 2020 two comparable periods that would be about the first of August each year, per comparable periods the number of business applications from the state for 2020 increased to 123% over the same period in 2019. That’s a lot so what’s going on? Mr. *inaudible* talked about basically this was seen as well 12 years ago when that financial crisis in 2008-2009 put the economy into a deep recession, and you saw a lot of folks who were out of work, they were down sized, they lost their job, their position was eliminated, but they have talent they have ability and what did they do? They went out and started their own business. So there's an indicator here. A bit of a data point that that could be happening again. Out of this situation the economic downturn recession resulting from the pandemic we may very well be seeing many people deciding: well I’m out of work here lets see what I have. They're testing their mettle to start their own business and try to work for themselves. That brings up the broader issue of economic development policies, both local statewide and do you focus that on bringing new business in or do you focus that economic development policy on what do you do for those small businesses that are forming? Entertain them helping them grow or do you again have a hybrid model where you try to do everything or do you do something in addition to what you're doing? And that’s the issue that folks at the Small Business Association were talking about last week in this presentation as well, how do you know home or death with those economic development policies and practices if indeed this is what’s occurring is this kind I don’t know if it’s a new wave of this entrepreneurism would be the correct way to say it but there's definitely something to foot according to this data on new business applications to the state."

Patrick Center: "MiBiz senior writer Mark Sanchez. Thank you so much."

Mark Sanchez: "Thank you."