It's blursday the umpteenth of Marpril, what feels like the longest month in our collective history. I'm going on day 19 of self-isolation myself, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine following our return from a family trip to Mexico. Those days of walking through crowded markets and eating in restaurants already feels like ancient history. My return to work happened just as the COVID-19 crisis hit North America, and I've found myself reflecting on the trends I've observed in the response of economic development and investment promotion organizations in that time.
Shock: We were warned countless times by epidemiologists, experts and doctors in other countries that it was coming to North America and Europe and yet we were all somehow shocked and mostly unprepared when it hit our regions and communities. Different regions responded on different timelines but we gradually saw economic developers forced to work from home just as the businesses in their communities were impacted, workers laid off, many schools closed, travel restrictions imposed.
The GIS Planning team is well accustomed to working from home and remote offices, as many of us live in different parts of North America and connect to our San Francisco main office and London, UK headquarters of the Financial Times. We recognized that this sudden change had thrown people into disarray and that we could offer some assistance based on our years of experience. In that first week, we offered an extremely popular free webinar on strategies for economic developers to work from home to help people manage the changes and find new ways to function.
Triage: In that first week, we also saw economic developers develop their first responds to the unfolding crisis. Two initial responses emerged: surveys being sent out to local businesses in many communities to measure the impact of new measures, as well as messaging to stakeholders letting them know that the offices were still operational, even if many were working remotely. Some of the best resources can from organizations who were well prepared to jump in with that assistance. Leann Hackmn-Carty, head of Economic Development Alberta and MYD Global is a well-known disaster preparation and management expert, is working with OctoUX, a Hubspot provider for economic developers, to provide an option for free use of their business survey model and inbound marketing platform.
We offered a number of webinars and published a white paper, Coronavirus: 10 Impacts on the Economic Development Professions and Solutions to Mitigate Those Challenges.
Information and resources: The next trend puts us where we are right now. Economic developers and investment promoters are recognizing that their websites are - more than ever - the nexus of their organizations and its public face. They are using those sites to aggregate all of the information available form different levels of government so business, industry, workers can take advantage of those supports. We are seeing the most innovative among them deploying their online GIS data data tools to work as open access data platforms for all community stakeholders. For example, the business and industry cluster mapping has become a vital resource for businesses who need to rethink their procurement and supply chain to source locally and regionally, now that international travel and shipments have been restricted.
GIS Planning has responded by offering clients a number of solutions that can be added to their interactive online tools - free of charge. Stay tuned - more are coming!
GIS Planning clients can quickly add local data layers to help their regions stay apprised of information relevant to the COVID-19 pandemic. EDOs can map essential services, businesses open or temporarily closed, restaurants offering delivery, testing centers, businesses participating in gift card stimulus programs and more. We can add this data free of charge to your ZoomProspector and Mapping Intelligence Component tools. You can see an example live here on the City of Columbia, SC ZoomProspector tool. To do this, clients shared with us in spreadsheets or through a live connection with your internal GIS (we are compatible with ESRI and Google Maps).
U.S. clients also have the new option to integrate, without additional charge, the JobsEQ Vulnerability Index on their ZoomProspector web tools. You can see it live on the State of Kentucky ZoomProspector tool by clicking the image on the right. This index, created by the Chmura team based on 2019 Q4 industry employment data, is a measurement of the negative impact that the coronavirus crisis can have on employment based upon a region's mix of industries. For example, accommodation and food services are projected to lose more jobs as a result of the coronavirus (in the neighborhood of 50%) compared to utilities and healthcare (with none or little expected job contraction).
Planning for the future: While no one knows exactly how this unprecedented crisis is likely to unfold, there is no question economic developers will be at the forefront of leading the economic recovery in their regions. Everyone will be looking to you for leadership. As you put thought into planning the resources that might be needed remember that two of the most important things you can do is communicate critical information and regional data, and facilitate the connections that are needed, whether that be businesses with their ideal locations, companies with local suppliers, or organizations with talent and potential workforce.
If you're looking for information on online GIS data tools for economic development, click below to get in touch. in the meantime, please stay safe, be well, and take care of yourselves and the ones you love.