Features highlights from November’s webinar with the University Economic Development Association

Building prosperous and resilient communities is not easy work to begin with. And it has become even more challenging given the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and transitions to remote work. But there are several thought leaders with successful plans.

We recently brought together some of these industry leaders for a discussion on this mission-critical topic. Our experts, who spearhead work focusing on new ways to drive economic development and wealth equity in the communities they serve, shared three trends you should know about.

Here’s what they said – and why it matters:

1. Invest in Holistic Analysis

Understanding workforce shortages requires broader data sets and a more comprehensive assessment of community needsnot just a look at jobs vs workers available. Solving for the workforce shortage means making sure employees have an affordable place to live, access to healthcare, and available childcare among other needs that extend far beyond traditional economic assessments.  According to Dr. Russell Mills, Senior Director of the Center for Regional Development at Bowling Green State University, understanding a more holistic picture of the community requires evaluating housing costs, prevalence of chronic disease, available social services and more.

The focus has gone beyond business attraction to include facets that make the community attractive to employees. At the same time, health systems and public health departments have been conducting their own assessments called Community Health Needs Assessments. These assessments delve into the social determinants of health like access to transportation, food insecurity, and high-speed internet access.  There is a natural nexus between these two efforts and the variables that contribute to the health and well-being of the people who live in the community. Bringing these data sets together can help discover opportunities to better support the community but also set measurable goals and track progress.

2. Expand Your Partnerships

Today, achieving a goal means engaging many partners. When Northern Kentucky Tri-ED, an economic development agency just south of Cincinnati, launched their data dashboard their goal was aspirational and focused on collaborating around a common set of data. By setting the table with a non-traditional peer network, they opened themselves up to new partnerships and started to uncover valuable, hyper-local data.

Sharing a common set of data can bring people into the conversation with a willingness to share, understand and align goals for the community.  The collective impact of all the assets and resources working together in a meaningful way can produce outcomes that are far greater than any one institution working alone. In one example, Christine Russell, Vice President of Strategy at Tri-Ed, shared that she was blown away by the information and depth of impact the public libraries were having in the region by providing job training, high-speed internet access and growing local talent.

3. Grow Prosperity Locally

Janet Harrah, Senior Director of the Center for Economic Analysis and Development at Northern Kentucky University, shared the surprising fact that many institutions are graduating individuals into poverty without the skills to earn more than minimum wage for their entire career.  While those who come from more affluent backgrounds are more mobile, there is a significant workforce that stays local. After reviewing new research by Harvard University and the Census Bureau, Harrah’s team found that 25% of students were leaving the Cincinnati region. She noted, “for the 75% of students who stay local, their economic opportunities are going to be those that we build as a community.”

You can address wealth equity by focusing on your “home grown” workforce and understanding their needs in a more holistic way. For example , it could mean matching up recent graduates with more job training pipelines and re-assessing business recruitment, along with the social services and education that can help people to rise up in their skill sets to grow their salaries in the short and long-term. By investing in plans that provide a pathway to careers that have higher earning potential, we can help provide a more prosperous future for the population staying local – and possibly shape a more resilient and prosperous future for the next generation as well.

Metopio is excited to be a part of ever-developing health and wealth equity conversations

At Metopio, we work to make data accessible and useful to changemakers in economic development, public health, non-profit organizations, healthcare, government and beyond. Our intuitive data tools make it easy to visualize and understand information across economic, demographic, environmental, social, and healthcare outcome and utilization metrics.

To learn more about these insights and how to put data into action to build resilient communities and advance equity, view our webinar on-demand or contact us at angie@metop.io.