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COVID-19 Silver Linings for Economic Development

May 11, 2020

As we look toward brighter days ahead, what economic development opportunities await? Two come to my mind most: one is strategic and statewide in scale; the other is more tactical, playing out at the company level.

The pandemic crisis has made America painfully aware that for economic and national security we need increased manufacturing in the U.S., especially of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies. On reflection, we may identify other crucial products necessary in times of emergency. We can improve our position by reshoring manufacturing and incentivizing new advanced technologies. Some of this was already underway over the last decade as foreign operations were proving to be no longer easy and cheap. But it hasn’t happened fast enough. This focus on boosting manufacturing in the U.S. is a tremendous opportunity that can help power an economic resurgence from the crisis-induced disruption.

To seize opportunity here, U.S. workers need extensive training for highly-skilled manufacturing work that will be required. From my work in economic development, I know another key ingredient will be tireless, visionary recruitment and education to connect companies with communities eager and ready to partner. The Carolinas are blessed with creative, enthusiastic and experienced economic developers at the state and local level, with ample allies. Both states would benefit from appointing a post-crisis quarterback of sorts to focus on this very opportunity and orchestrate among the necessary players.

On the tactical level, for companies eyeing a possible expansion or consolidation coming out of this crisis (seizing on this new manufacturing opportunity, for example), it is the perfect time to consider a company’s next, best home. Part of that work entails assessing which jurisdiction stands to be a strong partner for worker training, education, taxes, speed to permitting, infrastructure and incentives. A company in this position is smart to analyze and compile necessary metrics to forge such a partnership – this information is the currency a company uses to trade with in dealing with a jurisdiction: (1.) job creation (the number of new jobs a project will create); (2.) average wages paid to these new jobs; and (3.) investment the next phase would require.

Government traditionally uses these metrics to partner on an economic development project, and bases the forecasted performance of these metrics to award potential incentives. Upon proof of their attainment, incentives and related benefits will then flow to a company. While compiling these metrics is just a starting point, it’s data companies can compile now so they are ready to immediately participate in invaluable dialogues with local and state government that want to help make a company’s vision of growth a reality.

Don’t waste a crisis. For all its pain, this pandemic has provided us vital information and purpose to dynamically re-energize U.S. manufacturing. Applying the right pressure at both the policy and corporate level can pave the way for bright days ahead.

Christopher (Chris) Kouri is an Economic Development lawyer and the Office Managing Partner of Nexsen Pruet’s Charlotte, NC Office. He serves on the Board of Directors of the North Carolina Economic Development Association.


The information referenced on this page is based on guidance from government agencies and is current as of the date written.  Because the COVID-19 situation is evolving and new measures and interpretations are released frequently, please consult with counsel for the latest developments and for advice regarding any specific situation. 

 

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