Bruce Barone, Jr shares his feeling that Paradise IS NOT IMMUNE

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.” Abraham Lincoln

No truer words were spoken than those by one of our greatest presidents Abraham Lincoln. As I write this column, I look back over the last month with great disbelief but marvel at the ability of all Americans to come together during this time of great threat by the Coronavirus.

To think that a tiny organism could bring this country, actually the world, its people and the economy to a grinding halt is hard to fathom, but it does make one realize just how vulnerable we are and how family and life are so undeniably consequential. We have definitely had to face facts. Even in Paradise…no one is immune to this invisible enemy. The residents of Naples, and even visitors who have been sidelined here as they wait to return to their homes, are all doing the same: washing our hands, keeping a safe distance, taking regular walks, or leaving home only for the most essential of needs…food and medicine. We are all in this together.

However, thanks to technology we have continued to communicate. The Fifth Avenue South Business Improvement District (BID) represents the 220 businesses located on the iconic street at the heart of our community. As its Executive Director, I was  heartened to see the BID willing to take the lead on informing our businesses and our residents of up-to-the-minute decisions  from our national, state and local governments that affect our merchants and restaurants and in turn affect our residents
and visitors.

As a leader in pushing out information regarding mandates on cleaning, seating, serving and even availability of loans, the BID has kept the business community on Fifth informed. The BID has also provided a vital community service as well, by letting our residents know through a number of social media platforms that many of our merchants and restaurants have remained open for business, while following all government guidelines to protect the public.

Many of our restaurants, while closed for inside service, have continued to provide curbside or take out service for those who don’t want or aren’t able to cook. In short, we adjust and innovate, but we still meet the needs of our community and our local economy. As we emerge from this crisis, and we will, the 220 businesses and all the employees they represent will hopefully all be back and raring to go.

They will need the support of the Naples community more than ever, as they try to make up for lost income which translates  primarily into lost wages for employees. Each business owner on Fifth knows clearly how important local residents and
tourists are to their survival and ability to thrive in the future. Their existence, in turn, impacts our local property taxes, our property values and our lifestyle.

Naples is a microcosm of the rest of the country. As the economy starts to churn again, small businesses across the country will  turn again to the symbiotic relationship with their customers, pick up the pieces and move on. Naples will do the same. We expect to see our friends, neighbors and tourists returning to downtown and our lives returning to normal. No doubt we will
all be better prepared next time around.

There have been many lessons learned during this crisis, but Honest Abe was right when he said he was “a firm believer in the people.” I’m sure we are all feeling a little proud right now. I know I am.

Bruce Barone, Jr., an 18-year Naples resident, is the Executive Director of the 5th Avenue South Business Improvement District.

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