Posted April 8, 2020
In light of new pressing needs and opportunities presented by the COVID-19 situation, we recommend chambers of commerce and economic development organizations consider corresponding program and message adjustments. We believe the COVID-19 situation presents an opportunity for chambers and EDOs to bring fresh material value to their communities and elevate their status as “go to” economic development problem solvers.
Near Term: Focus on Economic Mitigation and Prepare for Recovery
- Go big on communications to your community. Implement the communications recommendations we provided in our previous guidance. (Click here to review.)
- Formally express organizational commitment. Ask your Board (and potentially, key partner organizations) to sign a one-page formal expression of unity and commitment to driving economic growth in the face of the near and long-term challenges wrought by COVID-19.
- Lean into your existing economic development strategic plan but adjust priorities. We recommend you / your organization review and reconsider its implementation priorities (and associated sequencing / timeline) and move to the front tactics which will help mitigate the unfolding economic damage and accelerate the economic recovery.
- Consider including in your organization’s various messaging that it is intentionally / deliberately prioritizing COVID-19 response tactics.
- In terms of including specific mention of COVID-19 in your organization’s strategic plan and related documents:
- Definitely DO mention COVID-19; your community needs to know your organization is “on the job”
- Perhaps incorporate into each of your strategic plan goals a “strategy 1” that is dedicated to COVID-19 response; chances are the details will include existing priorities your organization has elected to move to the “front of the line” – and perhaps an expansion on these details
- Perhaps use a specific font color for all COVID-19 content
- If desired, you could easily put all the COVID-19 content into a stand-alone COVID-19 response document
- Consider including mention of COVID-19 at the front of your organization’s strategic plan where you address themes that run through the plan – inclusivity, cooperation, etc.
- Pursue funding from the US Economic Development Administration and other federal government entities.
- Consider establishing a revolving loan or other fund to support regional businesses.
- Convene / catalyze key partner organizations and step-up advocacy efforts to ensure your community is a federal priority.
- Support economic and community development partners
- Lead or catalyze:
- Periodic (weekly?) calls with economic development partners to share updates, best practices, and catalyze collaboration.
- Regular email updates to this same group.
- Backstop partner organizations. Communicate that you are on-call and ready to help.
- Lead or catalyze:
Medium to Longer-Term: Focus on Accelerating Economic Recovery and Resiliency
- Continue many of the foregoing recommendations.
- Convene or catalyze a “blue-ribbon” task force / develop quarter-by-quarter strategy. Convene or catalyze a public-private task force that represents the community, then formulate and oversee implementation of a quarter-by-quarter strategy designed to accelerate economic recovery. The strategy should be integrated with your economic development plan.
- In light of possible (likely!) larger shifts to the local and regional economy, consider the following:
- Review target industry sectors to ensure their relevancy in light of COVID-19 driven changes to consumer spending / activity patterns and other economic changes.
- Allocate expanded staff / other resources to worker retraining and other “workforce alignment” tactics.
- New structures (councils, task forces, etc.) that might be needed.
- Track businesses saved, jobs retained, and other economic development metrics that are likely to have NEW RELEVANCY as the economy recovers.
- Lead or support development of business continuity plans (prepare for a future pandemic or other regional / national catastrophe). Speak with other economic and community development professionals in your area and identify a role for your organization that is a value add (not duplicative) in helping businesses develop continuity / resiliency plans.