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Economic Development During a Pandemic – Five Ways to Keep your Pipeline Full

By Dean Whittaker

As you know, because of the disruptive nature of the pandemic, your economic development organization is focused primarily on business retention. However, you also understand the importance of maintaining an aggressive business outreach strategy. For the near term, there will be limited in-person meeting with business prospects and reduced trade show participation. Here are five ways to adapt your economic development strategy to accommodate this new reality.

  1. Find and fill supply chain gaps. 
  2. Identify re-shoring opportunities.
  3. Reduce Risk in times of uncertainty
  4. Understand accelerating trends. 
  5. Recognize emerging industries.

Finding and filling supply chain gaps can be done by surveying your existing business to find out where they are having difficulty.  Using a tool like Survey Gizmo gives you an option of knowing the longitude and latitude of the respondent so that you can map the results of your survey.   

Over years very complex supply chains have evolved in an attempt to become more efficient and lower operating costs.  However, in the process the supply chains have lengthened and become more complex.  With complexity comes risk.  If one link in the supply chain fails, the entire chain is at risk.  Reducing the length of the chain and sourcing domestically or nearshore (Mexico or Canada) reduces the possibility of a disruption.   Input/output economic analyses can be used to understand the industrial sectors involved along with other data sources.   

Re-shoring is a long-term tactic as it may take several months if not years to re-shore pharmaceutical manufacturers of basic ingredients as well as semiconductors that require large capital outlays. Tax incentives are being considered at the Federal level to expedite the process. 

Many of the trends that I have been tracking using a STEEP (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental and Political) Matrix 0-3 years, 3-5 years and beyond 5 yrs. have been dramatically accelerated. For example, there is increase concern on health, factory automation, inequality, nationalism, escalating geo-political conflict.  The trends I felt would happen in the 3-5-year timeframe are happening in the 0-3-year period.  

To recognize emerging industries “follow the money.” In other words, focus on those sectors that are attracting investment from venture capital and private equity firms.  These investors have done the homework for you by identifying the sectors and companies in which they invest. 

Remember: with change comes opportunity.  Be prepared to take advantage of the new options the crises of our time are creating. Build relationships with clients and lay the groundwork for when they are able to again travel to your area.  Reimagine, modify, and adapt your economic development strategy in ways that will revitalize your organization and communities.

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