“COVID did not crush the future. It merely brought it forward.” – The comment comes from John Stackhouse who authored a recent report for RBC Economics. The report examines “How COVID will transform the economy and disrupt every business”and goes on to identify eight ways the pandemic will change what was our normal.
Stackhouse’s observation rings very true. Where there was once resistance to digitization there is now a need for it to stay in the game. In an instant work from home became the necessity not the nice-to-offer and broadband needs once again jumped to the forefront. Really, in almost every sector of our economy a re-thinking and re-imagining is underway.
With the eight items presented a lot of questions come to mind and that leads to a lot of issues that will
require deeper thought. How will these changes require governments to adapt? The speed of
government has been tested at every turn with the implementation of emergency programs and measures. How can we encourage flexibility within current processes to help businesses adjust? What is the cost of what is being given up from a human connection aspect? How does Canada adapt
successfully when there is still heavy reliance on other countries for supplies and resources?
Within these broader themes the author offers his thoughts on which sectors will be up and which will be down.
Under “How we work” the up areas include conferencing technology and flexible models for everything from childcare to cleaning to coffee deliveries. It’s interesting to note that one of the down elements is the co-work space that has been the subject of much debate for the past decade.
With many rural downtowns in the county and the downtown and commercial districts within the city of Peterborough, “How we shop” will be a crucial part of future success. There is definitely a commitment to buy local, to layout a community’s own economic safety net. It will be interesting to see how bricks and mortar locations fare through the rise of e-commerce. While COVID-19 may change the model of the mall is there a new adaptation that can work? Will we see the demise of high-density commercial property and if so what is the impact on municipalities and more rural downtowns?
"The reality is that a significant percentage of our economy is based on consumption, and the
pandemic is expected to generate a heightened preference for all things local,” says Stuart Harrison, President & CEO, Peterborough Chamber of Commerce. “This will present a tremendous opportunity for everything from food security to the local shop owner."
The concept of “How we share” offers some insight in how we might move forward using data and artificial intelligence (AI). Processing information into consumable bits has the potential to improve reaction times to trends, to potentially be aware of roadblocks and avoid them. The importance of security and the ability for businesses to adapt to ongoing threats is a key issue and one that the
Peterborough Chamber has been advocating for since 2017.
For post-secondary towns like ours, “How we learn” is another crucial piece to determining our economic future. Previously reliant on learning in classrooms and labs, transitioning to online is a monumental shift, as is how international students have access to the courses. The need for adults to upskill and reskill does have the potential to fill virtual classrooms.
There are still many questions and it feels like the pressure is on for businesses to suddenly be the future, but within that there is opportunity.