August 15, 2022

“Ultimately, we know very deeply that the other side of every fear is freedom.” 
Marilyn Ferguson

In the practice of economic development, everyone operates with constraints–financial, physical or political restraint–but perhaps the biggest constraint is our imagination. I recently read that 43% is the “new normal” in national office vacancy rates, and my first thought was how devastating it is to cities, downtowns, and suburban office submarkets. I continue to read and examine some of our declining demographic growth, which will likely shrink markets and cause labor shortages in a variety of industries in the coming decades. My reaction in both cases is to think of the world how it is and to draw a negative conclusion by focusing on the immediate pain these changes will cause to the status quo.

Better thoughts would be to imagine how our downtowns and office submarkets can be redeveloped into neighborhoods that also include residential, retail, and multi-use facilities that may make them healthier than ever before. To think of the innovation and investment that will be derived by companies automating their facilities and activities and possibly creating entirely new work environments based on new market realities. I’m sure how you have multiple examples of your own to add.

There is an onslaught of changes in the world right now. The new world of economic and workforce development requires that we don’t simply react, but constantly adapt and reframe in response to these changes. As community leaders it is important to step back and reexamine the possibilities, and the extraordinary freedoms we possess to pursue them and to look past the constraints and predictions of the naysayers. Our communities are counting on leadership that speaks to the possibilities and opportunities ahead of us and not the roadblocks of the present day.

Let’s have a great week. Work to reframe and adapt to a changing world together, and move forward.

-Kenny McDonald