Yankee ingenuity will get America through the pandemic

By Peter Vigue and Timothy Templet

Doom and gloom. Since March, Americans have been subjected to pessimistic proclamations about small-business catastrophe and government ineptitude — not to mention a COVID-19 pandemic that “may never go away.”

Of course, there is some justification for the pessimism. American small businesses are indeed struggling to respond to a coronavirus that caught the federal, state and local government off-guard — not just in the United States, but around the world. Hundreds of thousands of American lives have been lost, while anxiety and depression are on the rise. For public health reasons and economic ones, 2020 has been a year of immeasurable tragedy.

But we must stay optimistic. It is precisely during our darkest moments that we need to remain positive, and search for the light.

Good news is not in short supply. With the U.S. economy reopening, entrepreneurship is on the rise. Economic growth is skyrocketing, while unemployment continues to tick down.

At the same time, medical innovators are closer than ever to producing a vaccine that will protect millions of Americans from the coronavirus. Next month, Pfizer and Moderna are expected to report preliminary vaccine results. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a COVID-19 vaccine should be released by the end of the year.

In the face of unprecedented adversity, America is showing unprecedented resolve. But it’s even more than that: Americans are exhibiting the very best of Yankee ingenuity, the same “can-do” attitude that transformed 13 British colonies into the world’s foremost superpower. Sociologist Max Weber called it the “Protestant ethic,” the bedrock of American capitalism. French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville used the phrase “productive industry.”

True to our name, we must keep soldiering on — employers and employees alike. Economist Victor Hwang recently argued that “entrepreneurship is the vaccine for urban economies.” And he’s right, but rural economics are just as important. We need to promote entrepreneurship anywhere and everywhere — from New York City and Los Angeles to America’s most remote corners. 

In fact, Yankee ingenuity is alive and well in rural communities, such as our home state of Maine. With the help of Cianbro, Puritan Medical Products was recently enlisted by the Trump administration to manufacture 90 million flock-tip swabs per month in the fight against the coronavirus. As the country’s leading manufacturer of COVID-19 swabs, Puritan is now employing 800 workers in Guilford and Pittsfield — two Maine towns with a combined population of under 10,000 people.

Think about it: Rural Maine is now the national epicenter of COVID-19 swab production, which may save millions of American lives in the months to come. If that isn’t a testament to Yankee ingenuity, then what is?

Of course, the private sector cannot be alone in this fight, and we are not alone. Through the Defense Production Act, the federal government ordered its first COVID-19 swabs in April, while providing us with the resources needed to keep producing more. With the coronavirus stubbornly sticking around, our elected officials must continue to support businesses large and small — not just with talk, but with action. The executive branch will play an important role, but cities and states can follow suit by enacting pro-business policies.

But, most importantly, Americans must keep calm and carry on. As entrepreneurs ourselves, we urge the business community to confront adversity with a “can-do” attitude — now more than ever. And we ask the federal, state, and local government to support that entrepreneurial spirit every step of the way.

When the coronavirus knocks us down, we need to get up and punch back together.

Peter Vigue is chair of The Cianbro Cos. Timothy Templet is executive vice president of global sales at Puritan Medical Products LLC.

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