By Tony DeLisi, Vice President

As we start a new decade, many communities are wondering what the future will hold. Examining the past ten years offers valuable lessons and insights into which trends will shape the next ten and can help establish economic development priorities.

Following enormous job losses during the Great Recession, the US economy continues a record-breaking streak of growth stretching across 121 consecutive months. Despite this apparent success, not everybody is feeling successful. Some cities and people are feeling left behind as technology changes the employment landscape.

As unemployment fell and remained near historic lows, economic development became increasingly focused on talent production, retention, and attraction. At the same time, there is a growing recognition that increased prosperity bypassed many individuals, especially women and people of color. Thankfully, this is driving tough, but important, conversations about equity, inclusion, and barriers to success.

As we look ahead to 2030, many of these trends will remain deeply relevant to the world of economic development. While every community will face its own unique challenges that require new, creative tactics, the following three priorities should remain top of mind for all economic developers:

  1. Focusing on People. At its core, economic development should serve the needs of people and businesses in a community. In an age of disruption, education will become even more important in providing promising career opportunities to individuals. At a broader level, communities that can effectively train, retain, and attract the best and brightest will be best-positioned to thrive. Doing so will require continuously aligning training options to the needs of businesses and ensuring that everybody in a community has the chance to participate in these systems.
  2. Turning Disruptive Technologies into Opportunity. The disruptive effects of technology are increasingly top of mind for economic developers. Already, AI and automation are changing the nature of work and reducing the need for workers in certain sectors. While we often focus on the negative impacts of disruption, technological innovation also creates new opportunities. From contributing to the rise of new industries such as Additives Manufacturing to facilitating remote work, technological change will always bring pros and cons. Over the next decade, the most successful communities will embrace technology and accelerate the opportunities it creates, versus fighting the tides of time.
  3. Partnering for Success. Addressing our challenges today and into the decade will require robust partnerships. For too long, community organizations have operated in siloes – focused on their one issue and not communicating, let alone collaborating with those around them. Modern challenges are far too complex for this approach. Tackling workforce development, business retention, placemaking, equity, housing, transportation, and more requires that we take a holistic approach to economic development and partner together to amplify our impact.

At the start of the decade, this means we must strategize. As we saw these past ten years, success does not happen on its own. We cannot predict the future, but we know the challenges we face today. Building a framework for collaborative action will help us address those needs and better prepare us for whatever might come.

Where will your community be in 2030? Do you have the partnerships in place to achieve your vision? Now is the time to start the conversation and build the roadmap to get there, and Avalanche can help! Contact us to explore how we can help your community strategize for today and the decade ahead.