Economic Development organizations should take a three prong response to addressing the current and future impacts of the Covid-19 in their communities:

1. Support the public health response. This is first and foremost a public health issue. EDOs should consider what resources and relationships they can offer to strengthen the health care system's capacity to address the crisis. Are there medical product suppliers in the community that will need assistance ramping up to expand their production of needed supplies? Do they have workforce development expertise and resources that can help address specialized training needs, e.g., updating knowledge/skills of retired doctors, nurses, technicians returning to work, expanding the number of technicians who can operate respirators.

EDOs can connect with their local political leaders and public health officials to alert them to their potential assets to address health-care needs and coordinate their actions with the larger public health response.

2. Provide on-ongoing information, support and assistance to local businesses. Keep informed with accurate and up-to-date information on emerging federal, state, local and private sector business support initiatives and programs and become a reliable community clearinghouse for this information. Identify your organization's programs/resources and those of other local and regional organizations that can provide short-term relief and assistance. For example, can your Revolving Loan Fund, area banks and CDFIs defer loan payments without penalty for 3 or 6 months? In past disasters, EDOs have used the Capital Access Program guarantee model to quickly set up emergency loan programs and secured funds for business recovery grants.

Is there information or expertise can you provide, through action guides or webinars, that would address critical issues facing businesses, such as accessing and deploying business interruption insurance, or how to transition to on-line sales, delivery, or fulfillment? Tap into your BRE team to reach out to critical small and medium-sized businesses in your community to understand how the crisis is impacting them and what assistance they will need to sustain operations and survive through the crisis and coordinate assistance and support.

3. Join and help lead a community-level cross-sector effort to consider and prepare for the short-, medium- and long-term impacts of the crisis and how to address them. While most efforts need to focus on the immediate health, community and economic impacts of the crisis, it is important to assemble a team that can begin to work proactively to think about and prepare for how your community can address longer term impacts and needs. Despite the uncertainty the currently exists, having a cross-sector team in place and working on this aspect of the crisis will likely prove critical to community resiliency -- for this and future shocks and crises. This may begin with information collection and scenario planning to identify the range of impact and type of impacts and understand what will be needed to respond under different scenarios. This will help define and mobilize responses to short to mid-term needs as they become clearer while preparing contingency plans for longer-term responses under different scenarios so the community is better prepared to address medium and longer-term impacts once the short-term crisis abates.

Karl Seidman is a Senior Lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and President of Karl Seidman Consulting Services.


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