Daughter: “So, you actually walked to school? Uphill? Both ways?!” (With a flushed face.)
Mom: “Yes. That’s the way things were back then.” (With a pensive face.)
Daughter: “So, you actually worked in an office? You sat in traffic? Both ways?!” (With an exploding head!)
Mom: “Yes, I did. That’s the way things were back then.” (With a sigh.)
This theoretical exchange exemplifies the new era we have been catapulted into. With the impact of the global pandemic, lives and the livelihoods of our communities will forever be changed. Economic development will be entering uncharted territory with new, complex problems and imperfect knowledge. Our communities -- in the US and beyond -- will face falling revenues, constrained budgets, and strains to health and well-being. Now and in the near future, leaders must focus on the people who create the dynamic culture of its community by supporting its local, unique assets (read: small businesses!) by investing in them in both short and long-term ways.
Right now, economic developers and local governments are doing what they do best – caring for our residents and businesses. They are supporting those on the frontlines of the response, those providing essential services for more than hundreds of millions people. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
So, now what? We're still at sea, looking out for dry land.
Keep putting out fires, but prep for the next 3-6 months. Evaluate the need and your capacity to:
Push “buy local’ now more than ever. And keep pushing. Especially for vulnerable regions, such as rural and urban communities, helping your existing companies and institutions connect to local suppliers will be immeasurably critical. Knowing the gaps and opportunities of your supply chain has never been more paramount.
Reshape incentives to pay interest on microloan payments/debt payments. While grants and low interest loans are great for the bridge, small businesses and entrepreneurs will need help over the next river: when loan payments come due. Work with your existing pots of funds to apply them where it matters most now: keeping your existing base afloat.
Figure out your grant game plan NOW. There will be significant challenges for communities’ ability to meet their own debt payments. Ask for help putting together your strategy for grants that will be coming down the pike in 2021 from the US Economic Development Administration (EDA), US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Identify M&A opportunities to stabilize your workforce and economy. There is a harsh reality that some businesses will not survive this crisis. Getting in front of those who are close to closing and identifying merger and acquisition (M&A) opportunities with complementary regional companies can be a notable solution to stabilizing the economy.
Inspiration and Resources:
Rev1 Ventures has launched, with support from the Ohio Development Services Agency, a new internship program to connect young professionals to startups as they rebuild from the disruption caused by the pandemic. For local governments who typically employ a large number of YPs and youth, think about tailoring this approach to your own needs.
USDA unveiled tool for rural communities fighting COVID-19. The one-stop-shop of federal programs that can be used by rural communities impacted by COVID-19. The resource guide lists programs that can be used to provide immediate and long-term assistance in support of recovery efforts for rural residents, businesses and communities through: technical, training and management assistance; financial assistance; and, state and local assistance.
Let me know how I can help with your recovery and resiliency efforts. Be well, everyone.