Week 1: April 13 – 17

New thinking from TPMA about the future

April 13, 2020

Since founding TPMA, I’ve always believed our partners, you, are the light and we are the prism. You have problems, or you see opportunities and ideas, and TPMA refracts your light onto a surface in infinite ways. As the prism can be shifted, so TPMA shifts to help you.

We are all struggling through the COVID-19 crisis. I am starting this newsletter called ReWire as a way to listen and help you adapt to the rapidly changing future.

The newsletter will differentiate the noise of crisis. We won’t tell you what you already know. Instead, we will do what we’ve always done—help talent and economic ecosystems thrive in very actionable ways at national, state, regional and local levels.

Our starting point is the values of high-quality, impactful work that goes the extra mile and exceeds customers’ expectations. We don’t see ourselves as consultants, but as trusted partners.

We don’t claim to be prophets or futurists. We are, however, realists, and COVID-19 is accelerating the future. We are looking at the facts as they develop and enabling you to thrive in this new era.

Listening is central to serving you. ReWire will be about that—taking your needs and ideas, and helping you make a difference as we move into what I am calling not the new norm but a better norm. You will receive ReWire for six weeks, and then TPMA will evaluate whether we are adding value to our readers.

Please send me your thoughts or requests of any kind via text, email or calls. I will answer everything I receive. I always have and always will.

Thank you,

Thomas P. Miller & Associates

Document, Document, Document COVID-19 Costs

April 14, 2020

This is no time to sit on your hands and watch small businesses in your community sink, never to open their doors again. Survival depends on getting to work—quickly—documenting all manner of indicators to apply for the federal COVID-19 programs lumped into the CARES Act.

The statistics seem to grow by the week. Recent National Federation of Independent Business surveys showed coronavirus impact on small firms had shot up to 92% from 76% just ten days earlier. Some authorities anticipate perhaps one-third of small businesses not reopening.

As economic development leaders, no one knows the impact on your Main Street restaurants and retailers more than you do. Now is the time for immediate action, both for health needs and the needs of businesses and your community. So document, document, document!

What do I mean? Understand the immediate financial needs of small businesses including payroll support, rent deferral, and working capital. In the same manner, learn the needs of your public services and not-for-profit agencies, which are straining under the pandemic’s pressure. Have they been spending additional time and expense on behalf of the community? What about lost revenue to small-business closures and local government?

Once you have a sense of business, not-for-profit, and local government financial needs, align them with the most appropriate and immediate resources. Help them apply for the resources, as documentation of these financial needs will be required to secure the funding.

The CARES Act programs won’t cover all small-business costs and community expenses. We’ll review that next time. For now, get busy if you haven’t already done so and inventory your small businesses and local governments so you can secure them money ASAP!

Matt Rueff
Director, Economic Development & Resiliency
Thomas P. Miller & Associates

Demand for Top Educators Isn’t Going Away

April 15, 2020

Humans respond best to human trainers and teachers who make the lightbulbs in our heads light up, despite our best technological advances in artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Learning is required. We are in an era that requires new behaviors, technologies, attitudes, etc.  We are teaching our children at home, learning new skills, preparing for a new career! From kindergarten to a retiree volunteering at a nonprofit, all of us are learning as we adapt to new realities.

No doubt the internet, smartphones, laptops, and technologies help with this accelerated adaptation. We are all learning how to videoconference and interact electronically from Zoom to Skype and everything in between. Technology is wonderful when it works and is available.

However, not everyone has the same access, not everyone has the same tech aptitudes. We need something greater that helps produce the results we require, namely that we actually learn something.

The secret ingredient is human interaction—a person who knows you can overcome any deficiencies with technology, who can provide empathy to reach you as an individual, who can connect and apply a new idea to something that means something to you.

John Krasinski, who played Jim in the sitcom The Office, cracked during a recent YouTube segment about COVID-19 that teachers should be paid $1.7 million…a day. Talk about recognizing the value of (professional) human interaction!

Our current circumstances will blend into our future in ways we are just beginning to predict.  One constant since it was coined by John Naisbitt in 1982 is the concept of High Tech, High Touch. If we want to learn to be successful, technologies MUST blend with positive human interaction. This will apply from kindergarten students to an unemployed waitress training for a new career.

Educators at all levels will always be in great demand, and therefore need support through access to updated materials and techniques as well as funding and our appreciation.

Steve Catt
Senior Director
Thomas P. Miller & Associates

How to Leverage the Pandemic for Good

April 16, 2020

Many of us are already preparing for the residual economic damage from COVID-19 that is about to afflict every American community.

Uncertain days are ahead, whether it be citizens looking for jobs, businesses struggling to get back on their feet, or local and state governments striving to provide critical services as tax revenue drops. Some predictions suggest three years or more before the recovery is complete.

Yet, there is some good news. Prior to the crisis, the economy was strong. So state and local leaders can stand on firm ground as they fashion their recoveries.

Recovery planning is a moment for communities to challenge themselves by welcoming substantive change. Change can mean building a more diverse, resilient and inclusive community, places where personal and economic health is easier to realize and maintain.

The goal is not to see the significant federal help as temporary Band-Aids to close wounds. Rather, the unexpected capital should be used to leverage local and state resources to improve the community, business climate, and people’s lives.

The federal government can afford its massive relief effort due in part to low-interest rates and built-up international capital reserves. States, regions, and communities may also want to take advantage of these favorable economic indicators. This may be the ideal time to revisit public sector capital investment plans.

Consider establishing investment strategies to save and expand viable but vulnerable businesses. Increase the value of real estate with well-laid infrastructure, emphasizing the elimination of broadband deserts. Housing is another endemic problem that, executed correctly, saves and generates local dollars.

Many of us have been quoting Rahm Emanuel lately, namely “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” There is nothing good about this situation and it is not to be taken lightly. However, there would be some justice if we came out the other end better and stronger for the travail.

Mike Higbee
Vice President, Economic Development & Community Resiliency
Thomas P. Miller & Associates

Personal Value is Measured Differently Now

April 17, 2020

It can be hard to focus on long term goals during a crisis. Our day-to-day work tasks may seem trivial compared to the magnitude of the daily news reports we hear related to COVID-19.

For many of us, social distancing and self-isolation can take a negative toll on our mental and physical well-being. Feelings of disconnection, stress and anxiety can make work difficult, and we may not feel like our most productive or best selves.

While this time at home might seem like an opportunity to complete tasks we have never gotten around to, this crisis might actually be a time to pull back and refocus on long-term priorities. Give yourself permission to do less right now instead of more.

You don’t have to write a novel or learn a new skill. You don’t even have to get dressed every day if you don’t want to.

One thing that’s helped me navigate this difficult time is focusing not on what I want to achieve during quarantine, but what I want my life to look like after quarantine.

Write a list of places you want to travel, friends you want to visit, restaurants where you want to eat. Remind yourself that this situation will eventually pass and hopefully we’ll be better for it.

Amanda Straight
Senior Project  Consultant
Economic Development & Community Resiliency
Thomas P. Miller & Associates

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