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OPINION: Legislators, we need you to be leaders

“We are the businesses that drive the economy. I call on you now to see past your campaign contributors, fundraising sponsors, and lobbyists and start representing the voters of this country. Do not fail us again.”

RVAHub Staff

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By Phillip Ray

My name is Phillip Ray. Together with my brother, Chris, I own and operate Center of the Universe Brewing Company and Origin Beer Lab located in Ashland, Virginia. My brother and I rely on the staff of our small business for our livelihoods and they rely on us for theirs. We made a deal with them: they trade us their most precious commodity, their time; and in return, we offer them a safe and reliable place to work, a benefits package that provides health care in case of illness, a savings plan for their futures, a fair livable wage and a comfortable work-life balance. This week we are forced to break that deal.

This is by no means the first time our small business has faced hardships, but this is an unprecedented situation – one which I do not believe we can survive without your help. We have lost two of the three markets where our goods are sold and our revenues have been cut by 70% because of this. I am writing today to ask for your help. I am asking for you to help not just our business, but the 30 million small businesses in this country who are suffering.

Now is the time to help the workers in this country who contribute the most to the economy and receive the least amount of remuneration for their efforts. Now is not the time to send multibillion-dollar bailout packages to multibillion-dollar corporations. Those companies received their bailouts in 2018 with the historic corporate tax cut you voted into law. The result of that bailout was not improved salaries, increased benefits packages, or even a safety net for workers or the companies themselves. Instead, the corporations you bailed out participated in record stock buybacks and paid massive dividends to their shareholders. They used their bailouts for the benefit of a few wealthy stakeholders. Now, when crisis hits, they want you to use taxpayer money to bail them out again.

This is the definition of privatizing profits and socializing losses. For far too long, this country has asked the most financially vulnerable among us to bear the brunt of the fiscal pain when disaster strikes and reap the fewest rewards when the economy is booming. This crisis has proven to be no exception.

Small businesses in this country are often inefficient and ours is no exception. This inefficiency is exactly what keeps the economy moving. We spend the majority of our budgets on human power and earn razor-thin margins. Our revenues do not sit in our checking accounts or investment accounts or in our own stock ownership. We do not have executive payrolls or massive lobbying budgets. We earn and spend our money locally, benefiting the greater economy not just our own.

We are the businesses that drive the economy. I call on you now to see past your campaign contributors, fundraising sponsors, and lobbyists and start representing the voters of this country. Do not fail us again.

Pass legislation that immediately puts money into the hands of small businesses and working Americans. Pass legislation that guarantees every American access to health care. Pass legislation guaranteeing all Americans with a full-time job can support their families. Pass legislation that protects every American during times of crisis. I call on you to pass these laws and to pass them today. This is the deal you made with the American people when you asked for our votes. Now is the time to honor that deal.

Faithfully,

Phillip Ray
Co-Founder, Center of the Universe Brewing Company & Origin Beer Lab

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Department of Public Utilities encourages reopening businesses to flush water before use

As businesses prepare to reopen on Friday, the utility encourages the flushing of internal pipes before any water use resumes.

RVAHub Staff

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The City of Richmond Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has been providing safe drinking water during the COVID-19 pandemic and it remains a priority. As businesses prepare to reopen on Friday, the utility encourages the flushing of internal pipes before any water use resumes.

With non-essential business being closed due to COVID-19 since March, water has been sitting in pipes. This water can lose the benefits of necessary disinfection, which could lead to bacteria growth and thus unsuitable for drinking, hand washing, or other uses. Additionally, turning on water after prolonged closures could disrupt plumbing materials and release contaminants into the water.

“To ensure fresh water is being used by newly reopening businesses, we strongly encourage them to flush the water in their systems. This is important to maintain the public health and safety of all residents and visitors,” says DPU Director Calvin D. Farr, Jr.

This process includes running water through all faucets, fountains, and other water treatment/enhancement systems with both hot and cold water for several minutes before using.

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Stoney: City to “cautiously move” into Phase 1 of reopening plan on Friday, May 29th

On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan. Masks will be required in all indoor spaces and restaurants will be asked to voluntarily connect patrons’ information for contact tracing purposes.

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On Thursday, Mayor Stoney announced that the City of Richmond will cautiously move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan.

“When I look at the picture in totality, given the added tools at our disposal, the current trends in our local data and my faith in Richmonders to look out for one another, I believe that Richmond can cautiously move into Phase 1 on Friday, May 29,” said Mayor Stoney at Thursday’s press conference.

During the first delay that the City of Richmond requested, the Stoney administration and Richmond City Health District expanded testing efforts, implemented a contact tracing effort, ensured every COVID-19 positive Richmonder will be able to isolate safely and securely with supported isolation, and advocated for a statewide mask requirement.

The city initially requested a modified Phase 1 reopening that maintained restrictions on places of worship and personal care and grooming services, as mass gatherings and close personal contact for extended periods of time both significantly increase chance of community spread.

Because the governor denied the city’s modified plan for reopening, Richmond will move into Phase 1 of Forward Virginia, the state’s reopening plan, with strong recommendations reflecting the mayor’s proposed modifications. Local guidance and helpful links to state guidance are available here. The state has yet to provide guidance on what Phases 2 and 3 will include.

The mayor detailed a number of best practices for residents and business owners to ensure that the city moves into Phase 1 cautiously. The best practices emerged from conversations between the Stoney administration and members of the business community, faith leadership, and health professionals.

  1. All residents who are medically able to should wear a face-covering that covers the mouth and nose when in public spaces. The wearing of a face covering does not negate the need for 6-foot social distancing.
  2. Faith communities should continue to meet virtually if possible. If in-person meetings are absolutely necessary, the mayor strongly recommends faith groups meet outside while practicing strict social distancing and enforcing the face-covering requirement.
  3. Food and drink establishments that choose to offer outdoor service at half capacity are asked to request a name and contact information of patrons who dine in for contact tracing purposes. This practice is voluntary for both patrons and restaurants. However, collecting this small amount of information for each dine-in party will go far in assisting the Richmond City Health District in tracing and containing outbreaks. Guidance on this practice is available here.

The mayor made two requests of the state: to continue to assist the city in further expanding testing capacity and in providing adequate face-coverings and hand sanitizer throughout the capital city.

“Quite frankly, we’re going to need more support from the state for our residents and our businesses to reopen safely and sustainably,” the mayor noted in his appeal. “I make these recommendations and requests of the state because, as has been my mantra this entire pandemic. Reopening should be slow and steady.”

“When public health is on the line, blindly pushing forward is not an option. Decisions must be thoughtful, and they must be based in our collective knowledge of and love for our city.”

See more reopening guidance for local businesses here: www.rvastrong.org/reopeningguidance.

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Health Innovation Consortium, Lighthouse Labs partner on health-focused startup accelerator

Richmond-based Lighthouse Labs, a nationally-recognized, top 25 seed-stage accelerator, will partner with the Health Innovation Consortium (HIC), a collaborative alliance working to make the Commonwealth of Virginia a hub for health innovation, to launch Virginia’s only health-focused accelerator program.

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Richmond-based Lighthouse Labs, a nationally-recognized, top 25 seed-stage accelerator, will partner with the Health Innovation Consortium (HIC), a collaborative alliance working to make the Commonwealth of Virginia a hub for health innovation, to launch Virginia’s only health-focused accelerator program.

Founding partners Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU Health, and Activation Capital, launched HIC in 2019 to help bring health innovations to market. HIC and Lighthouse Labs will leverage the new accelerator this fall to cultivate a pipeline of health-related technologies through a three-month immersive learning experience, capital opportunities, and potential for funding.

Making the Commonwealth’s only health-focused accelerator program possible is Activation Capital, a nonprofit organization that focuses on early-stage ideas to foster the area’s growing entrepreneurial ecosystem. A grant by Activation Capital to Lighthouse Labs, along with the contributions of HIC, will support the health-focused programming by Lighthouse Labs in addition to VCU’s efforts to develop new innovations in healthcare.

The new initiative, including expertise, grants, and funding by Health Innovation Consortium, will be offered alongside an industry-agnostic vertical that will also operate as part of the 2020 fall cohort by Lighthouse Labs. Selected companies in both verticals will participate in the accelerator from August 24 to November 13, 2020, in Richmond. During the fall program, the health-focused startups and the industry-agnostic companies selected will work with top-tier mentors as they participate in targeted and adaptive programs.

“Health systems, particularly academic health systems like VCU, are looking for innovative solutions involving every aspect of health care—its delivery to consumers, its technology, and its business models,” said Peter Buckley, M.D., interim CEO, VCU Health System, and interim senior vice president, VCU Health Sciences. “The Health Innovation Consortium was designed to facilitate, support, and scale health innovation. By partnering with Lighthouse Labs, a nationally ranked start-up accelerator, we have the opportunity to attract and engage with the most promising new technologies in the country that can improve the health of our community.”

The companies selected to participate in the health-focused accelerator will use the three-month programming as a springboard to develop digital health and medical device technologies, amongst others. Founders participating in the fall cohort will also have an opportunity to tap into HIC resources, including access to an exclusive network of industry experts, early-stage venture funding, and support, after the cohort has ended.

In addition to equity-free funding, programming, and mentorship, all selected companies will have access to $1 million in advisory services and benefits from partners such as Global Accelerator Network (GAN), Kaleo Legal, Startup Virginia, and other service providers. In addition, companies accepted will participate in Demo Day(s) designed to demonstrate each selected startup to investors, alumni groups, potential customers, and peers.

“Innovation is needed now more than ever,” said Erin Powell, executive director of Lighthouse Labs. “The fall cohort by Health Innovation Consortium and Lighthouse Labs will provide traction for the most promising, high-potential startups to begin making an immediate impact in health-related industries.”

“Beyond the three-month immersive experience this fall, the post-program opportunities, and access to the Health Innovation Consortium network and connection to capital, makes this new offering the most transformative platform for those who have identified the biggest challenges in human health and healthcare and are ready to accelerate quickly to provide solutions,” said Powell.

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