In Focus: Mitigating Risk with Aggressive Support in Economic Development
Having an economic development program in place, ready to go, will help a community get back on its feet once the devastating threat of COVID-19 is behind us.
For example, here in South Carolina, the Port of Charleston is one of the leading import-export hubs in the country. The port is anticipating a container drop in March and April but, with extreme safety measures, expects normal shipments starting back in May.
Another powerhouse in our local community is the 10,200-seat Volvo Car Stadium. Concerns over the pandemic were too much to overcome, and The Volvo Car Open announced last week that the largest women’s-only pro tennis event in North America will not be held on April 4–12. This decision to cancel the 20th year celebration in Charleston that typically brings approximately 90,000 spectators is devastating. Unfortunately, the worldwide concern of the spread of the virus has put a stop to travel and dining out, which also creates a significant negative impact to Charleston’s hotels and restaurants.
Government and business leaders should look to economic development as part of their coronavirus economic recovery plan. This scene is playing out in communities across the nation, with major events cancelled or postponed, restaurants and retail shopping shuttered, and travel strictly curtailed. With the stock market crashing 25 percent last week, tragic reminders of the Great Recession that paralyzed the country in December 2007 — and lasted well into 2009 leaving millions of Americans unemployed and sparking worldwide economic decline — are now back front and center today. Legislation attributed this downfall to a lack of oversight, and The Dodd-Frank Act officially became law in July 2010, which is considered the most comprehensive financial reform second to the Glass-Stegall Act placed after Great Depression in 1929.
In order to mitigate risk, our proactive response over the next eight weeks is critical. Many are focusing — and understandably so — on short-term support measures that can stimulate a reeling economy. While these immediate steps are needed (particularly for hard-hit industries such as airlines and hospitality), government and business leaders also should look to economic development as part of their coronavirus economic recovery plan.
The exact period of this shutdown is unknown but, most likely, we are looking at a period of weeks or months of significantly slower activity. At that point, businesses will begin to ramp back up — slowly at first and picking up speed as the threat of the virus lessens. Having an economic development program in place, ready to go, will help a community get back on its feet.
Consider another global crisis — the Great Depression. While it was a time of great hardship, WPA investments both kept people working and greatly improved America’s infrastructure for generations to come. Similar public-private partnerships now can be an essential component of our national recovery.
No doubt about it — the coronavirus is a crisis of global proportions. But it will end, and working together, we can mitigate its damages to public health and to our national economy.
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