On Economic Recovery, Reimagination and Resiliency
Albany has demonstrated time and again that it can withstand a crisis, unite in its wake and emerge stronger in its aftermath. We are innovative, compassionate and resilient. We don’t need to reinvent who we are. We need to reimagine and redefine what we can be.
By Bárbara Rivera Holmes
President & CEO
Rumi, a 13th century Persian poet and theologian, thoughtfully wrote that a wound is the place where the light enters you. The concept is most often visualized within the context of personal healing and growth, but it also beautifully applies to our community. Now, through this difficult time, we must recover in a way that allows us to improve our economic competitiveness and resiliency, and create new pathways for our citizens.
In January, at the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce’s 110th annual meeting, I shared with more than 400 business and civic leaders the challenges and opportunities on which our organization would focus in order to advance economic sustainability and prosperity for our community and our region. In February, we launched the community’s first comprehensive work force strategy. The forward trends and issues within our focus areas — small business innovation and entrepreneurship; economic development; inclusivity and advocacy; talent and work force training — are now more important. Urgent, even. The environment has accelerated, and so must our response. Because COVID-19 didn’t just present a health crisis; it hit fast forward on a socioeconomic paradigm shift.
The disruptions in global supply chains, the changes in consumer behavior, the development of social distancing guidelines, the limitations on travel, the broad implementation of telework — these are challenges in what is becoming the old economy. The opportunities — onshoring production for domestic security, a preference for locally-sourced goods and foods, closer-to-home leisure travel, an increase in automation and demand for high-tech skills, flexibility to work from anywhere, a surge in gig jobs — exist within the emerging new economy.
Upskilling and diversifying the existing work force, and creating, retaining and recruiting talent, will create exponential growth opportunities. Spending more dollars locally than abroad and online will allow them to recirculate within our economy, which will mean stronger small businesses, offsets to tax hikes and improvements to critical infrastructure. Helping our existing industries grow and recruiting new ones will strengthen our economic anchors, expand the tax base and provide more jobs.
The Albany Area Chamber is working with community partners to frame the conversations around economic recovery and resiliency. Together, we responded decisively and innovatively in the face of the health crisis. Together, we are supporting businesses through reopening. Now, as we write the next chapter of Albany’s history, together we must move forward.
COVID-19 has wounded us. We can recover, and we will. We can also reimagine and redefine what we can be. We can regenerate as more inclusive and resilient and vibrant. We can let the light enter us.
Bárbara Rivera Holmes is president and CEO of the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.