If Communities Use Data, Post-Pandemic Recovery Can Be An Opportunity, Not A Challenge
As the coronavirus pandemic starts to release its grip on the country, cities and communities are planning their route to recovery. This isn’t an easy journey to map. No previous global crisis has had such a profound effect on businesses, communities and the way we all live our lives.
Some people, however, are seeing this recovery journey as less of a challenge and more of an opportunity. Chris Briggs, senior vice president of Buxton, a consumer intelligence technology provider, says he believes that armed with the right data, investors, developers, businesses and entire municipalities could reinvent the way they offer services and meet consumer needs.
“The pandemic has exposed and highlighted some real inequity in economic development, particularly in the way some people access services to meet their basic needs — food, employment, safety and health,” Briggs said. “For some populations, this has been lacking for decades. There is an opportunity here to address that. As we come out of the pandemic, we can look at the infrastructure of the built environment and see how it is aligned, used and leveraged to benefit society.”
Bisnow sat down with Briggs to gain insight into the challenges communities are facing across the U.S. and learn why it is critical to understand how consumers have changed in order to overcome these challenges.
Bisnow: What challenges are communities facing now they are heading into post-pandemic recovery?
Briggs: Local governments are facing more than a few challenges, but a major challenge relates to budgets. As revenue sources were strained during the pandemic, many cities had to make cuts in services and couldn’t keep up with what they needed to do to serve communities. The challenge here is how to ramp those services back up.
Local businesses were also very challenged through the pandemic. These entrepreneurs are vital to communities, providing services and employment and generating wealth. Forecasts suggest there are still a lot of challenges ahead as they face pressure on hiring, inflation and the supply chain.
To recover, cities need to show they can be strong partners for the business community, which is what economic development is all about. They need to make sure they create a platform for people to grow, experiment and invest.
Bisnow: What types of data should communities be examining to reinvigorate their tourism and support local business?
Briggs: Cities need to understand who their tourists are, where they are coming from and what their value is.
Critically, they need to compare before and after. We’ve had a major market disruption, with significant pressures put on consumers, particularly middle- and lower-income families. Are cities getting the same people back as before? From the same places? Are there certain types of consumers who aren’t back yet? The answers to these questions will change the dynamic of what you have to offer.
Critical to keep in mind is that tourism generates traffic for local businesses, which generate the sales and property taxes from which municipalities thrive. Businesses that really lean on visitors entering the market need to know whether everything is as it was before. If not, how can they interpret those differences and find strategies to cope with that change?
Bisnow: How can data help commercial owners and developers bring back tenants?
Briggs: For tenants, every opportunity to expand comes with some risk that needs to be mitigated. At Buxton, we know that all too well since we’ve helped retailers, hospitality and healthcare service providers alike build models to assess said risk.
The bottom line is that CRE professionals need to focus on being a partner, bringing data to the table that illustrates there is less risk associated with selecting an individual property rather than choosing between multiple alternatives. Where tenants have multiple options, it’s going to be very competitive to get those spaces filled.
Owners can achieve this by showing how their location, or locations, would hypothetically suit a tenant’s needs. We call it ‘tenant matching’ — the ability to benchmark a potential location against a whole host of comparable locations, looking at the performance and consumer profiles to show the tenant’s consumer in the right density. You need to speak their language, talk about customers and show them this is something they have successfully done before.
Bisnow: Looking beyond the immediate post-pandemic needs of businesses, how can communities use data to plan for the future?
Briggs: There are lots of sources for information that communities are starting to utilize to help their local businesses thrive. We see cities using consumer information to understand the way their communities change over time — what’s actually happening now, how neighborhoods are transitioning, who’s moving in or leaving. Cities can align services to the changes they see.
Communities have a big opportunity to address inequality in development patterns and access to basic services. We work with some great clients who are looking at areas that have long been passed over for business expansion and shifting the narrative to focus on the customer potential these neighborhoods offer. They’re getting people to invest in underserved communities, to see them as opportunities, not as something to turn away from.
Another opportunity is to use data to remain relevant. Cities have started to realize that economic development isn’t just about bringing in the next big manufacturer, warehouse or data center. It’s about creating a place with the amenities and infrastructure that will attract and retain talent. The cities that are winning right now are those that realize how economic development can change the foundation of what that city is and be a place that attracts and keeps people who will invest their lives there.
This article was produced in collaboration between Buxton and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.
Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.