Both economic development and preparedness are extremely important. But they must be prioritized. Preparedness is always first. If you are prepared, you are positioned for prosperity. If you aren’t prepared, sustainable progress isn’t possible.
I have witnessed this throughout my career. Once organizations gained clarity on their goals, progress almost always followed. Let me connect this line of thinking to our current circumstances.
Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, our nation’s current challenges are broad and severe. Our communities have had pain, suffering, and stress thrust upon them. Our public health system is strained and even overwhelmed in places, and our economy is devastated. We must continue to adapt our behavior to survive this crisis. Times are imperfect but promising. Circumstances are bringing out the best in us. However, we cannot expect to solve our problems with the same thinking that contributed to their severity.
Economic development and recovery will be a major challenge for us for quite some time. Here’s a snapshot of what we know:
- Our communities will be required to continue to adapt if we are to prevent further spread or reoccurrence of COVID-19.
- Our public health system is underfunded and stressed.
- Our aging population will continue in their vulnerability to viruses and need for health care.
- Our communities deserve economic development initiatives that position them for both short-and-long-term progress.
We learn of new challenges daily. Nevertheless, I know that this is also a time of great possibility for us. We must invest wisely, quickly, and broadly to help those in need and position our economy for recovery. We need to create strategic alliances that make the most of limited resources.
The first aspect we must gain clarity on is our shared goals. What do we want to have accomplished in one year, three years, and in five-and-ten years? Now is the time to set challenging but achievable goals to position our communities for prosperity.
If we say we want economic development to solely focus on shareholder value or organizational strength, we position ourselves to miss the larger opportunities.
Tremendous value can result from partnerships that unite talent and resources that might otherwise have not connected. Talent development can help reignite economic development.
While numerous strategies can be implemented to help with economic recovery, we need strategies that compel us to capture value in the short-term while positioning us for continued progress over time.
Investing in talent development must be a top priority. This needn’t be overly complicated. We need to match needs with resources, plain and simple.
For example, we need to improve our public health system and people need jobs. We can expand the creation of public/private partnerships to provide support for aspiring medical professionals. Now is the time to be creative! Explore the feasibility of implementing financial incentives for health care program students and graduates who work in public service for defined periods of time. Hospital systems can continue to partner with educational institutions to ensure graduates are prepared to meet demand. This is but one example of a beneficial activity that makes a positive impact in both the short-and-long-term.
Our aging population will continue to need care and our communities will continue to need economic activity. The creation of additional communities for older adults could be beneficial for individuals, organizations, and cities and towns—we can care for our seniors, educate our students, and develop our communities simultaneously. Many cities and towns currently have amenities attractive to seniors that only needed expanded upon, connected deeper to local organizations, and promoted using targeted marketing efforts. Economic development groups and foundations can support such efforts by continuing to contribute their expertise to support broad community development.
Such strategies focus our efforts on preparedness. When we prepare our communities to take care of themselves, we prepare our nation to respond appropriately to challenges and achieve economic stability.
Too often we get stuck on party politics or outdated thinking. We prevent ourselves from reaching our potential because we have certain expectations that limit progress.
Greatness is realized from doing things differently and embracing diversity and change—rather than relying entirely on the familiar and secure.
We need to give ourselves permission to think bigger and invest broadly, our futures depend upon it.