The rapidly emerging impacts of COVID-19 on local communities has left economic developers seeking guidance on how to best respond to the crisis and offer effective support measures. Working together, elected officials, partners, local businesses, community members and economic developers can implement actions to mitigate the negative outcomes of this outbreak and work towards a more resilient future.
The International Economic Development Council held a webinar in early April to discuss a ten-point action plan for how economic developer organizations (EDOs) at all levels of government can work through a three phase recovery plan: mobilizing to help their local businesses now (Phase 1), preparing to reopen safely and securely (Phase 2) and positioning economies for longer run recovery Phase 3).
The ten points of the action plan are summarized below, and touch all levels of government and industry.
- Assess leading industries and clusters for “pain points” based on surveys, discussions, and other data, understanding that some clusters are at a greater risk than others. This allows your organization to create appropriate support programs for each cluster over the immediate- and longer-term.
- Enlist and ready your anchor institutions in mobilization, reopening, recovery efforts, including both public (e.g. post-secondary institutions) and private organizations. They can boost local purchasing and hiring activity, and their stability makes them an asset in longer-term recovery efforts.
- Outbreak-proof airports and transit hubs, including development of plans for the “new normal” of social distancing and health or temperature screenings. These hubs play a critical role in regional economies, and now is the time to revisit and evaluate policies for all aspects of passenger and goods movement (e.g. baggage, security checks, boarding).
- Prepare large-scale civic assets (e.g. stadiums, arenas, convention centres, performing arts centres) for the transition period, and the safety procedures required when the time comes to re-open. Economic development organizations should consider working with destination marketing organizations closely, to address any budgetary or fiscal constraints.
- Modify vital infrastructure and public space, including transit infrastructure and open spaces. Stimulus funding should be focused on retrofits and redesigns to ensure health and safety and reflect social distancing, cleaning, or sanitation requirements. This could include modifications to buses, subways, commuter rail, or stations, or pedestrianizing downtown areas or neighbourhoods.
- Prepare for more remote work, and the issues and opportunities surrounding a growing segment of remote workers. Communities will need to shift their labour engagement, support, recruitment and retention efforts, as well as ensure the broadband infrastructure is in place to allow remote work. A task force of economic development and technology organizations can assist with development of a plan.
- Ensure main street survives, so communities are not left with block after block of empty storefronts. Most “main street” businesses require financial assistance now (e.g. grants and loans), but communities should also consider ongoing engagement and outreach, promotions (e.g. a “made-in…” campaign), technical assistance for health and safety, and encouragement pf local procurement and purchasing.
- Protect the arts and creative economy, so that communities are not left with a void in arts and culture upon reopening. Financial support is required, but like main street businesses, technical assistance to adjust to social distancing may be required.
- Upgrade jobs for frontline service workers, including better protective equipment, pay, and benefits. This will need to be done in partnership with large-scale service employers (e.g. grocery stores, delivery services), but economic development offices can directly encourage development of personal protective equipment locally, and support workforce providers in filling openings for essential workers.
- Protect less-advantaged communities, as the economic fallout of the outbreak will fall heaviest on the least-advantaged. This includes people- and place-based strategies such as mitigating healthcare vulnerabilities of less advantaged communities, and focusing small business, arts, culture, and workforce placement strategies in less advantaged neighbourhoods.
EDOs will play a critical role in supporting the transition of their communities and businesses from initial mobilization of resources, to long-term strategies for economic recovery.
For more information and to download the slides and the webinar recording click here.
Find additional resources and economic development tips from International Economic Development Council on navigating through COVID-19 here: https://restoreyoureconomy.org/