February 8, 2021

It requires a very unusual mind to undertake the analysis of the obvious.
-Alfred North Whitehead

Our challenges and our opportunities are often not hidden, they are front and center. There is no delegating in order to take advantage or to move past them. We have lost over 10 million jobs throughout the U.S. economy and yet we still have the greatest economy in the world. It is clear that the most vulnerable have been impacted the most by both the virus and the economic downturn and addressing this issue offers the greatest opportunity in a generation to strengthen our country.

We know we are undergoing an era of economic transformation unlike anything we’ve seen in a over a hundred years. The way we consume, and even buy and sell, is changing under our feet. Our great healthcare system, including the often maligned pharmaceutical sector, is not just a lifesaver, but an economic lifesaver. Manufacturing capability is an essential industry and a must-have to decrease dependency and increase resiliency. We need to be able to source, manufacture, and distribute food, drugs, and critical electronics within our vast country and across our regional economies. Diversity, both economic and demographic, has never been more valuable to companies and communities. It is also a core part of our nation’s value proposition and a source of our creativity and economic prowess that no other nation can match at our scale. Diversity simply wins.

Three areas deserve our attention and demand priority on our schedule and within our budgets.

First, note the areas in which the economy is moving forward. There are thousands of rapidly growing companies and dozens of growing industries. How can we foster them locally, attract new players to diversify our tax and employment base, and win wherever we can to gain market and mind share? Competing for jobs and investment ensures that we will be more sensitive and responsive to the economic transformation and create jobs, tax base, and perhaps most of all – positive energy and hope. This means competing to get capital in the hands of small businesses, helping an existing employer become more competitive, or attracting a new employer to create jobs and invest in your business park.

Second, find the areas and issues where there is overwhelming evidence of unacceptable outcomes, a fairly clear action plan to arrest the trajectory and begin turning the issue toward positive and equitable outcomes, and where there is a need for resources and leadership. Aligning our resources and attention to critical economic issues and prioritizing them above others will set us on a path to deal with even more difficult issues where the data and the actions are much less clear.

Third, enthusiastically support those working on the non-obvious, long-term issues. Those creating solutions for unimagined problems, like a vaccine for a disease we’ve not yet seen or a business model not yet enabled by our current technology – all of the people with big dreams for what our communities can become.

This week let’s re-examine our to-do list, clear the inbox and our calendars, to take practical, meaningful action. Ready and forward in 2021.

-Kenny McDonald