by Joseph Cambonga, IEDC Intern
Nowhere on the globe has been exempt from the coronavirus. In Australia, the pandemic hit just as local economies were beginning to recover from widespread bushfires. Economic Development Australia has been a leader in encouraging colleagues to consider how to support local businesses throughout a disaster.
During a webinar entitled, Economic Recovery: Lessons from Australia. Bruce Connolly, manager of the economic development unit at Latrobe City Council, and Bob Elkington, economic developer at Macedon Ranges Shire Council in Victoria, presented their experiences and expertise in disaster response and recovery.
The Early Days
A crisis can manifest in several ways, disrupting a region’s economy. Meeting immediate needs such as food and shelter should always take priority in the first few months after a disaster. Having a contingency plan with a clear approach in the event of a disaster prepares an organization to manage turbulence.
EDOs can serve as a channel for humanitarian resources. In order to navigate through the chaos, EDOs must disseminate critical information from the top down and facilitate communication from the bottom up. Rebuilding the region’s social network allows a community to effectively use scarce resources. Focusing on major industries helps rebuild a community’s economic base for further growth.
The Middle Period
During the middle period (3 to 12 months after the event), forming an economic recovery action group can help stimulate economic activity through business assistance. For some businesses, this may be an opportunity to readjust their strengths to make the best out of a tough situation; for others, the personal impact caused by the devastation may discourage further operations. Local leaders must support all businesses, big and small, and encourage them to develop a 10-year business plan.
The Long Haul
With disasters, the question is not if another one will happen, but when. The long haul of community recovery takes into account whether fundamental changes need to happen in order for a community to survive. For example, pivoting towards new industries can require a large investment in cross-training a community’s labor force but can help reintroduce it to a different marketplace. While this can be a large investment, it ultimately keeps jobs and local talent in the region. Big ideas like workforce development are essential to include in an economic resilience strategy.