“How they return their student to campus, and when, is of really grave concern,” he said. “There’s just this sense that we could feel another economic downturn in our community if we have lower numbers of enrollment or without any students in town at all during the fall semester. Because of the fluidity of COVID, things change so rapidly from day to day yet all of us have become dependent on the semester starting. Everybody comes to town and our full population is here. This year we don’t know if our full population will be coming.”
Pastick said Flagstaff could be particularly vulnerable to that kind of economic shock because of the size of the community relative to the university. If the University of Arizona or Arizona State University see lower enrollment, the Tucson and Phoenix metro areas are large enough that the impact to local businesses will be limited. But that may not be the case here in Flagstaff, Pastick said.
To help deal with the issue, Pastrick said the chamber is organizing a task force to discuss the possible economic fallout, and potential solutions for businesses, of a low-enrollment semester.
That task force will include local business leaders– as well as Cheng and President of Coconino Community Collage Colleen Smith. It may be able to find alternative ways of supporting the business sector through the pandemic both at the local level and through speaking with elected leaders, Pastrick said.