Economic Development Resource

Planning Ahead: Start Today to Ensure Your City is “Open for Business” Tomorrow


Economic Development, Rethinking Public Facilities & Talent Recruitment for Tomorrow

During this pandemic it is important to be intentional with your time allocation dedicating a portion to the immediate tasks of today and a portion to prepare for the future. Life will go back to a new type of normal and we all have the responsibility to do what is right for today and the opportunity to prepare for our future.

Even as cities focus on a full-out mobilization of required health and medical resources to cope with the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to be prepared safely and securely for the future, too.

In this article we’ll identify steps your team can take now to prepare for getting back to business breaking it down between economic development, healthcare and city-wide initiatives.

Economic Development

  1. Conduct market research on your own market, including downtown and other commercial corridors. Strong restaurant and retail companies are looking at this uncertain time as an opportunity to enter markets that they normally couldn’t afford or to find ideal real estate in markets that were previously overpriced or occupied. Community leaders that are equipped with the right information, tools, and resources will be in a much better position once things get back to “normal”.
  2. Invest in downtown to make sure Main Street survives. Mom and pop businesses are the fabric that make your community truly unique. Capital investment in the restaurants, coffee shops, galleries, retail establishments, and bars are critical for survival, but so is promotional help from the city. Provide ongoing advice, marketing support, and guidance to businesses downtown to mitigate future loss of these businesses.
  3. Focus on placemaking. Consumer behaviors will change coming out of this shelter-in-place period and people will desire common places to take their families and connect with others. Placemaking capitalizes on your community’s assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people’s health, happiness, and well-being. Identify areas in your community where you can invest resources to create these needed common places.
  4. Economic development teams need to assess the clusters of industry that currently make up the area. Connect with local business leaders across different sectors to discuss ideas and create a plan to diversify industries to plan for future economic challenges and the hopeful reshoring of new industry.

Rethinking Public Facilities

  1. Prepare City Hall and other city-owned offices where the public frequently visits by adding painted lines on floors and stanchions to promote adequate social distancing in waiting areas, as well as providing masks and hand sanitizer.
  2. Think of assets in your community where large groups gather – stadiums, performing arts centers, schools – pandemic-proof these assets as much as possible. Work with operators of these facilities to talk about their plans for reopening, opening up discussions around limiting the size of future crowds, temperature checks upon entry, and signage to leave seats open in between guests.

Talent Recruitment

  1. In the midst of a nationwide work from home experiment, this is certainly something that will likely be supported by more companies in the future. Take advantage of this movement by luring new residents to move to your community. The city of Tulsa, Oklahoma implemented the Tulsa Remote program offering remote workers $10,000 and free desk space to move to the city. Northwest Alabama and Topeka, Kansas have followed suit with similar programs. 

Times like these have a way of galvanizing communities and society. Following this pandemic we will have a newfound appreciation for a local sporting event, an art exhibit, farmers market, and sitting down at a restaurant with family and friends.

While your community navigates today’s challenges, make sure to allocate time to prepare for tomorrow’s opportunities. Gather your resources, connect with local leaders, and execute your plan to secure a better tomorrow for your community.

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