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Tony Iannelli,

By Tony Iannelli |President & CEO, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce

Published by the The Morning Call | Apr 15, 2020

It was late January and the chamber held its 2020 Economic Outlook event at SteelStacks. The event, as usual, was packed with 600 community and business leaders shaking hands, hugging and happily sharing each other’s company in what was a damn good economic run.

Our keynote speaker, Wells Fargo Global Economist Jay Bryson, shared some uplifting economic news for the year ahead. As necessary with most economists, he felt compelled to mention a footnote that “all’s good — failing some catastrophic event.” I remember thinking that I’ve heard that doomsday stuff before, and I understood the necessary caution — but that ain’t happening.

I was pretty confident that nothing was going to interrupt this great universe we were enjoying.

Who could have predicted that four short weeks later, we’d get sucker-punched by a devastating, invisible enemy? And a damn relentless one at that!

Or that I’d be working remotely, hoping that I’d wake up the next day not fighting for my life? That I couldn’t visit, hug and enjoy Easter dinner with my grandkids? Instead, I had to drive by and wave from inside my car. That when I’d pass by my friends and neighbors, I’d have to view them as COVID-19 laced, ticking time bombs waiting to send some kind of human wrecking virus my way?

COVID-19, you have us flat on our backs. You have us begging for mercy. But in the true American tradition, we’re struggling to get back on our feet. We may be a bit wobbly, but we’re still standing and we’re ready to start fighting back. We’re mad as hell and someway, somehow we’re gonna defeat this formidable enemy.

So, it’s Round 2 and we’re starting to feel like maybe we can win this thing. Maybe we’ve found some weapons that may not be game-changers, but at least a start.

I keep hearing, “We’re in this together.” Hello? Who doesn’t know that by now?

What I want to preach is, “We’re gonna get out of this together!”

After this medical crisis diminishes, we’ll still have a heck of a financial fight on our hands. Here’s how I hope we can win what will be the toughest financial challenge of our lives.

Round 3 is coming. We’ll find a vaccine.

That’s the knockout blow to COVID-19. I know there are many brilliant chemists and physicians working overtime to develop a vaccine and I’m sure at least one of them will make COVID-19 history. I’m confident we’ll see one soon.

We’ll get healthier. We’re going to work on eating better and eating less. It’s no secret I’ve been fighting to lose weight, but we’re all gonna exercise more. We’re gonna boost our immune systems with the help of vitamins so that the next time this happens we’ll be more fit fighters waiting for that next blow. It’s clear that those most vulnerable are those with current health issues. Some aren’t fixable but some are. If we look in the mirror, the fixable one might be you.

We’re gonna spend money. And lots of it. I know that sounds harsh but for those of us who are fortunate enough to have disposable income, we’ll have to spend it.

We have to eat at restaurants, buy cars, do home projects, expand businesses and do anything else we can do to fuel the fire and keep our neighbors employed.

Lastly, I hope we’ll drop some of our arrogance and learn to love and support each other a little more. You know, accept each other more, whether black or white, straight or gay, Republican or Democrat. We’re learning we need each other. We need each other mentally, physically and economically. We’re seeing some great signs of a more caring world. Let’s not forget it.

Yeah, we’re in this together and we’ll need everyone to be all in and to get out. We’ll need our strengths, our tenacity and our “from the heart” compassion and love.

We have some great leaders in this Valley and they’re going to have to step up like never before. We’re in and we’ll get out of it together!

Tony Iannelli is president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce. He can be reached at

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