Local Impact: John Davis on Economy, Providence, American Dream


This month, the Oregon Transformation Newsletter, published a series of interviews with Oregon CEOs about their efforts in the coming months to keep their workforces whole and their companies intact. We plan to publish a series of articles highlighting excerpts from those interviews:

John Davis, Attorney and Partner, Lynch Conger

If you are a business owner, how financially capable is your business of surviving this pandemic crisis? What measures have you taken to keep your workforce whole? Do you plan to hire back your staff, or will you be able to keep your workforce relatively whole through the crisis?

As a law firm that launched with a “fresh start” four years ago, we built ourselves on a cloud platform that allows us to all work from home and seamlessly stay in touch with clients and each other. We’ve had to scramble a bit over this past weekend to equip a few of our staff members and assistants to work from home, but we’ll be fine. We plan to keep our entire workforce (15 of us) fully employed. I can’t say the same thing for my clients who own restaurants, retail establishments, dental and vision clinics, and other businesses that are now effectively banned from operating for the indefinite future. The governor owes them a timeline.

In the last two decades, Americans have been through 9/11, the 2008 financial crisis, and now we face this global pandemic. How much worse is this crisis? How are you personally dealing with your own anxiety?

This is already worse than 9/11, by any measure, but only time will tell if the economic impact hits the same as 2008. I’m also concerned about the effect this will have on millennials and the next generation’s belief in the American Dream and the American economic system. Many saw the carnage of 2008, have failed to find gainful work, and just as they were beginning to step forward in life, a new trauma hits and knocks them back down. Every older generation complains about the younger, but we have to really be careful not to destroy our economy (which is made up of people and lives, not statistics) while disenfranchising an entire generation to the wonders of our market economy.

Personally, I’m more anxious for my clients and friends and their livelihoods than my immediate family. My wife is an ICU nurse, and we are both healthy in our late 30s. Our kids are 6 and 8. Our 401Ks will have decades to recover. Unless we lose the statistical lottery, we will both 1) get COVID-19 in the next few weeks, and 2) be just fine. If one of us gets really sick or dies, we believe in Providence (God, not the health care system), and we will accept that outcome. We’re being cautious and keeping safe distances from everyone except for our immediate family. My wife is quite anxious about OHSU possibly getting short on supplies, and she is being deluged by emails from the hospital regarding the best ways to conserve supplies if the COVID wave hits in the next few weeks.

On the family side, my mom is a cancer survivor (75 years old) and my mother-in-law is undergoing breast cancer treatment (65 years old). We’re very concerned for them and making sure the health care system has capacity to treat them, since they are among the highest possible risk population.

What’s the most surprising response to this crisis that you’ve seen either from friends and family, local and state government, or the federal government? What’s the most disappointing response that you’ve witnessed? What’s the most inspiring response that you’ve noted so far? What is uniquely positive and American about our united response?

The run on toilet paper was ridiculous. The number of top-notch performers playing online sets on Facebook and Twitter has been a joy. The lack of a quick, nuanced response from government (either “do nothing” or “shut it all down”) has been disappointing, yet unsurprising. We are always unprepared for the crises we have not recently experienced.

The most effective government response was Singapore (big surprise!). Let’s pray our system can run as fast as the virus, while we all shelter in place and watch it play out.

If you would like to read the entire interview, click on this link at The Oregon Transformation Newsletter: