It’s inevitable: After COVID, we’ll discover that a number of temporary societal adjustments from this transformative period have stuck around. There will be sweeping, permanent tectonic shifts in the way we treat technology, employment, crisis preparedness, and economic resiliency. 

Disaster recovery is the first priority in the wake of the economic damage from the virus, but long-term, sustainable local economic development will take an entirely new and forward-facing approach.  Governments can rely on the following three principles of local economic development to keep economic centers—whether individual cities or regional innovation clusters—in-tune with the post-COVID environment: 

1. Jump On Free Money For Long-Term Coronavirus Recovery

The floodgates are already open. Act quick and take advantage of the $1.5B adrenaline shot injected into the economy by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Every community—affluent or low-income, large or small—is eligible to receive aid. The EDA is distributing funds in response to applications from a wide cross-section of public-focused groups, including:

  • State and local government organizations
  • Non-profit entities (public or private)
  • Higher education institutions
  • Federally recognized tribes

All you need to do is demonstrate how a CARES Act grant will help your community “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus” or respond to “economic injury as a result of coronavirus.”  Consider using funds for economic recovery planning, new technology needs, innovation and entrepreneurship initiatives, public works projects, or other facilities that can support economic recovery. 

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The team at Waymaker Group has deep experience in working with EDA grants, and we’re prepared to consult with you immediately on your best options for immediate and long-term local economic development.

2. Data-Driven Insights Into the Post-COVID Workforce

Jobs in the region will have changed. Your local recovery (and future growth) won’t be able to sustain itself unless you learn how and make adjustments to compensate for the new employment environment. Conduct a robust Workforce Gap Analysis with the help of an analytics and research partner like Waymaker Group. You can reveal: 

  • Which occupations are most critical (core) to local economic development
  • The tech “skills gaps” in your local workforce that will need to be addressed
  • The necessary data to spark urgency and transformative change
  • Which job titles and roles are the strongest or fastest-growing for local tech talent
  • How your workforce needs relate to your higher education talent pipeline
  • Disconnects in the hiring pipeline or regional HR standards

These data points give your community or region direction for high-impact investments, partnerships, legislation, government incentives, and more.

For example, the Greater Washington Works study put together by JPMorgan Chase and The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region discovered that DC-area hiring managers emphasized skills and experience, whereas DC-area human resources staff filtered candidates by academic credentials. This led to a misalignment between employers and job seekers. Quantifiable proof encouraged local business leaders to update internal hiring processes and make more effective use of the available workforce.

3. Higher Education Partnerships

Okay, now you’ve identified where your best workforce growth opportunities lie and flagged the disconnects in talent pipeline training. The next step is to take action (perhaps with the help of CARES act funds) by forming the public-private coalitions necessary to fix the leaks and keep highly-skilled, relevant talent flowing. 

Engage with higher education institutions, eco dev groups, and local business leaders to learn how all sides can cooperate to mutually benefit. For instance, Waymaker Group partnered with Higher Education Regional Alliance (HERA) in Milwaukee and Kenosha, WI to collaborate on projects for the Chicago-Milwaukee corridor that targeted:

  • Higher education attainment in southeast Wisconsin
  • Innovative academic programming
  • A talent bridge from higher ed. to businesses and industries

Independently of HERA, Waymaker has also facilitated a series of educational partnerships on behalf of Kenosha with institutions like UW-Parkside, Carthage College, and Gateway Technical. These efforts will lead, in time, to important expansions in medical technology, engineering and computer science education programs, more adequately preparing a regional pipeline for sustainable, higher-skill and wage 21st century careers.  

UW-Parkside chancellor Debbie Ford described the benefit of meeting industry partners to have them look over curriculum: “What do they see as needs and demands that they might have,” she asks, “and how might we modify our curriculum to meet those needs?” The partnership advanced the goals of both organizations.

Better alignment between higher education and business keeps employees in the region and promotes local economic development for a sustainable post-COVID future! Contact Waymaker Group today for more information on how we can help your community prepare for life after this crisis.

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