We had been meaning to write Rebooting Local Economies: How to Build Prosperous Communities for some time. Our experience working with communities across the country and around the world, and our research and teaching have provided us with knowledge we want to share with everyone interested in community and economic development—from full-time professionals to elected officials, board members, and community volunteers. The COVID-19 pandemic acted as a catalyst encouraging us to put this book together at a time when economic and social disruption and tragic personal loss at both the global and local levels have been vividly and painfully demonstrated.
As we wrote this book, recovery from the pandemic in the United States and around the world had already occurred, with a few locations still working on moving forward. Despite the recovery from COVID-19, our research indicates that there will be lasting effects for many businesses, individuals, and communities. Thousands of U.S. businesses have closed permanently, particularly in the hospitality and service industries. The shift to remote work caused by the pandemic has demonstrated to many companies and employees that commuting to the office daily and traveling for face-to-face meetings may no longer be the best business model. There are indications that increased reliance on remote work will be an enduring legacy of the pandemic with significant long-term implications for the travel and hospitality industries, commercial real estate markets, and business and residential locations.
The immediate and severe impact of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted an extraordinary response from governments, businesses, and other private sector organizations to address the public health and economic effects of the outbreak. At the local level, chambers of commerce, community and economic development agencies, and other public and private organizations in many communities reacted swiftly to help local businesses.
Respondents to a ProsperousPlaces.org survey reported a variety of services that community and economic development agencies offered local businesses, including serving as a clearinghouse for assistance information; facilitating communications among local organizations; and providing information on the status of local restaurant and retail establishments.1
In other words, people in towns and cities everywhere worked together to address a common problem and help their communities. This is the essence of the community development process that we will explore in detail in Rebooting Local Economies. Ironically, an unexpected benefit of the pandemic is an enhanced awareness and spirit of cooperation for community and economic development. Furthermore, as the saying goes, where there is change, there is new opportunity. While social and economic impacts from the pandemic such as increased reliance on remote work may present challenges for some cities, they may present opportunities for others. Both can be addressed using community and economic development principles.