Uncharted territory: The questions for businesses are many

Life and commerce might never be the same when the coronavirus outbreak subsides.

Tom Hoban

Tom Hoban

Businesses, private schools and property owners around the region are bracing for April, when mortgages, rents and bills are due in the middle of a mandated stay-in-place order.

Shawn O’Donnell’s American Grill & Irish Pub in south Everett was directly affected by the COVID-19 shutdown order. He’s working on accessing federal support and thinking optimistically about opening back up, hopefully soon. “The order came the day before St Patrick’s Day, our biggest day of the year, so when we re-open we are probably going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day every month for a while,” O’Donnell said.

Real estate owners are bracing for a potential impact, too. Protections offered to apartment renters from a statewide eviction moratorium do not exempt renters from paying eventually, and the order only applies to those directly affected by a government order. Most rental property owners are deploying strategies to help their tenants find resources so they don’t fall behind while they operate their management teams under new protocols.

Many office, industrial and retail property owners are dusting off their old playbook from the 2008-10 real estate crash and the post-9/11 economy to help support tenants, some of whom will also enjoy eviction protection from the moratorium. Retail is expected to be particularly hard hit, so shopping malls and other retail centers who were already struggling on thin margins are going to need a lot of help to get back to healthy operations again. Assisting them in getting funds to bridge the gap is also part of their strategic goodie bag.

For Everett’s Archbishop Murphy High School, these are unprecedented times, as well. As a private school, they are entirely supported by tuition. Conveniently for them, though, distance learning was already baked into the school that keeps students learning on snow days. “We are a college preparatory school,” explained Steve Schmutz, the school’s president, “so the academic rigor and pace our students and parents expect has required that we have a distance learning model in place for years.”

Schmutz feels for the students and families right now, especially seniors, who could experience their last months of high school at home. “We’re on schedule for students to complete their coursework on time, take their scheduled final exams and matriculate to the next grade level or to college, as planned,” Schmutz said. “While it might be unorthodox, our students are finding creative ways to engage with one another and still capture the high school experience at home. Students are even planning to have our spring talent show online.”

When we’re all allowed to return to school and work, new questions will arise about how much space we really need after we become practiced at distance learning and working from home. Office space, in particular, may be reconfigured or downsized if outcomes prove favorable. It may take people some time to re-socialize the same way, so will restaurants set aside new seating areas with a bit more space around them to coax them back in? Will food costs go up as new cleaning protocols are deployed to keep customers comfortable? How will entertainment events change? Will colleges and universities re-examine their delivery model and maybe find efficiencies that mercifully turn the tide on the high cost of tuition?

Lots of questions, very few answers in these unprecedented times. In the meantime, we hunker down, support our healthcare workers, protect our frail and look forward like never before to the day when we can reconnect at a human level with a random high five, a simple handshake or a hug.

Occasional contributor Tom Hoban is chairman and co-founder of Hoban Family Office, a real estate investment and services enterprise in Everett.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

The City of Arlington filed a lawsuit seeking the closure of the Smokey Point Motor Inn because of excessive criminal activity on the property. Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Arlington wants to close motel, center of ‘criminal activity’

In the past few years, police have responded hundreds of times to the Smokey Point Motor Inn.

A handful of Northwest Union Carpenter members picket in front of the new Marysville civic center construction site on the sixth day of a region wide union carpenter strike on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Union carpenters picket at Marysville and Everett projects

The Marysville Civic Center and an Everett Amazon building are among dozens of construction sites affected.

FILE- In this Nov. 6, 2018, file photo, models of Boeing passenger airliners are displayed during the Airshow China in Zhuhai city, south China's Guangdong province. China’s airline industry association has thrown its support behind 13 Chinese carriers seeking compensation from Boeing for groundings of the 737 Max 8. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung, File)
Boeing predicts travel back at 2019 levels in two or three years

The company expects Chinese airlines will need 8,700 new aircraft by 2040.

Twins Leslie Davis (left) and Lyndsay Lamb stage a house in Everett as seen on the second season of "Unsellable Houses" on HGTV. (HGTV photo)
Sold: Snohomish twins back for more HGTV ‘Unsellable Houses’

The makeover show’s 13 episodes feature Snohomish County homes, with decor items sold at new store.

Tuesday's career fair will be at Everett Community College, which incidentally is also one of the participants. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Snohomish County Career Fair set for Tuesday at EvCC

Job seekers can connect with more than 40 employers at this year’s annual event.

Snohomish County unemployment rate drops slightly to 5.6%

Washington added 16,800 jobs in August.

Report: Criminal indictment coming for former Boeing official

Mark Forkner was the 737 Max Chief Technical Pilot who is alleged to have lied to aviation regulators.

Workers build the first all-electric commuter plane, the Eviation Alice, at Eviation's plant on Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021 in Arlington, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
All eyes on Alice, the electric plane made in Arlington

If all goes well, Eviation’s battery-powered airplane will make its debut test flight later this year.

Bufeng Gao, owner of Qin Xi'an Noodles, receives a check from the Edmonds Chamber Foundation's Wish Fund outside of her restaurant that was burned in a fire on Thursday, Sept. 16, 2021 in Edmonds, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
After arson burns Edmonds plaza, 14 businesses need help

Plum Tree Plaza — a cultural hub for Asian Americans — burned in a three-alarm fire early Sept. 11.

Hand drawn vector illustration of bottle of red wine and two glasses. Abstract cartoon style isolated.
You voted: The best wine list in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, folks still have their favorites.

Boeing sells land for $200M in plan to shrink holdings

Boeing has sold 310 acres of undeveloped land next to its Frederickson manufacturing plant.

Washington August jobless rate was 5.1%; 16,800 jobs added

August’s rate was the same as July’s rate, and increased even as COVID-19 cases surge.