The unprecedented stresses of 2020 — and now 2021 — have presented historic challenges in America, and within Minnesota's state borders, too.

Emphasizing opportunity over division is not only possible but essential to our shared future.

The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has released a "Blueprint for Economic Recovery." This in-depth report outlines the historic and immediate impact of COVID-19 and accompanying government restrictions on our economy, and documents steps toward recovery that are already underway.

In 2020, our economy experienced some of the steepest declines of the last century. But businesses of all sizes and in all corners of the state did what they do best — they innovated, and pivoted products, services and delivery systems to meet consumer demands and weather the COVID-19 storm.

And although small businesses bore the brunt of the impact from restrictions, all enterprises relied on the historic strengths that make Minnesota a great place to do business. And all this while protecting the health of employees and customers.

Two clear economic imperatives now stand before us: We must stabilize at-risk businesses and take strategic actions to accelerate recovery in the short term. These imperatives are the basis for the business community's policy priorities for the 2021 legislative session.

Gov. Tim Walz and legislators have several opportunities to help employers and employees and set up our economy for long-term success:

• Avoiding additional restrictions on business operations and increased costs and burdens on businesses.

• Helping businesses with cash flow and additional tax relief such as conforming with the federal rules for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

• Enacting common-sense business lawsuit protections related to COVID-19.

• Ensuring access to child care and resumption of in-school learning to return employees to the workplace.

• Supporting the public health response, and safety measures for employees and customers.

Other issues critical to our economic recovery will be discussed this legislative session. Lawmakers should take steps to preserve employers' right to design benefits that best allow them to compete for employees in their unique industries; ensure high-quality, affordable health care; and promote cost-efficient and reliable energy and sustainability.

It is possible — even now — to set divisions aside and work toward our shared goal of recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Need proof? In October, the state conformed Minnesota taxes to Section 179 of the federal tax code, allowing business to immediately deduct the cost of purchasing certain equipment. This was a bipartisan effort benefiting small businesses and farmers at the height of the pandemic.

If it's possible during a heated election to come together, even bigger steps toward economic recovery are possible this legislative session.

The chamber is focused on finding opportunity over division. Now is not a time to pick sides.

Doug Loon is president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.