What a whirlwind week and a half we have had in the U.S. as the reality and impact of COVID-19 has hit in what felt like successive tsunami waves of closures and news that touched every corner of our culture. There is certainly no denying that the months ahead will be long, no matter how quickly this virus is lifted.
So how can your economic development team help best? Well the reality is, nobody really knows for sure, and you as the boots on the ground in every city will probably know better than anyone what your businesses need. That said, here are a few things to think about, and a few things other EDO’s are already doing, that you might find useful. Consider this an open start to an ongoing conversation. One that we are just as interested in hearing from you on, because we want to be able to assist you as you serve the businesses and companies in your city.
Things To Consider
We Are Always Better Together
No matter what the politics have looked like in your city over the past weeks, it is undeniable that we are always better off coming together and working together in times like these. Do whatever it takes to make that happen on your part with the other departments and working parts of your city like the chamber and city management. If your city has good leadership, this wont have to be up to you to initiate. But building good communication and relationships will go a long way towards leading through COVID-19 and beyond in a consistent, clear, and calming way. Maybe it will even serve as a catalyst for the future well beyond this crisis.
Buy Local & Encourage Others To
I have been really encouraged to see the number of people and cities already talking about and modeling this for their communities. Small businesses are the lifeblood of every city’s culture and day-to-day life. Though their employee numbers may not rival your larger companies in town, those 10-20+ people they do employee will be jobless instantly if they close up. Small businesses are also the most likely to be hit the hardest without the resources to weather this viral storm long term. Find ways to partner with or start awareness campaigns and communication through your social channels and other avenues. Help people in your city become aware of the incredible impact their choices for something as simple as dinner can have in this unique time.
Communicate With Employers & Listen To Their Needs
If there was ever a time to find ways to talk to your local employers and ask them what you can do to help them, this is it- virtually of course! Get on the phone with them, email them, Facetime them if you have a good relationship with them. Do whatever works to let them know you are there to help and that you care. That first call is only a starting point. Hopefully it is just continuing an ongoing relationship you already have with them. But be intentional, let them know you will be following up throughout this ongoing crisis, and ask real questions as to what their needs are each time you talk.
What Other EDO’s Are Doing
Set Up An Information Page On Your Website
This is the very first thing you should do, and you should do it now. Create a page on your site dedicated to ongoing updates, resources, links, and further information. Put it in an easy to locate place on your site, and find a way to feature a link to it on your homepage or in an information bar at the top of the site. We are currently helping a number of our clients accomplish this on their sites, and if you want to see a few examples just check out Brenham, Texas, Columbus Region and Greater San Marcus Partnership. Be sure that you have a primary contact for more information or a form of some sort for employers with questions or needs to reach the right place for answers.
Use Social Media To Notify Of Updates
There is so much disinformation out there that people do put more weight on a local government level update when it comes to situations like this. So use your channels and keep your businesses up to date with what they need to know. A word of warning with that: check & double check your information before posting it. Be sure you are being consistent with other information being put out by your local government before you post. Encourage calm, feature the positive, and offer help and resources to the audience you know will need it most. That being said, don’t devote your entire focus toward this virus! Keep posting news and updates on economic activity, wins, and everyday business life just like you always do.
Providing Resources & Help For Companies Having to Work Remote
Nobody would ever choose to be pushed into a sink or swim test for remote work if they have never considered it before, but that is exactly what has happened with many companies in the span of about 48 hours. If that was the case for some of the companies in your city then they need all the help they can get. Be sure to provide some knowledge and resources on how to make that situation successful for both the employee and employer side of the equation. EDsuite was remote for 3 years as a company, so if you want some tips and resources, just let us know!
We will get through this together. It will be a long road, but try to see the positive and encouraging side and don't let your self get dragged into the fear that is so easy to give in to. I have already seen so many encouraging ways that people are looking after each other. Be one of those stories.
This article isnt meant to be a marketing piece for our services here at EDsuite, but we want you to know that we are invested in helping cities and the economic development community navigate the communication and messaging side of this difficult challenge. Please let us know if we can help your organization, and we would love for you to let us know what you are doing to meet needs in your community.