How Covid-19 Has and Will Continue to Change the Economic Development Job Market

Craig Price

Furloughs and Funding Challenges

Economic development organizations, tourism promotion organizations, and chambers of commerce across the country are experiencing and will continue to experience financial strain.  Organizations that rely on private investors will surely see a dip in funding, and lack of tax revenue is going to put pressure on cities, counties, and states to make some tough decisions.  Furloughs have already begun, and some organizations may need to make more permanent cuts to their staff.  

As states issued stay at home orders and unemployment claims surpass 30 million (and counting) city and state governments have seen their tax revenue fall off a cliff.  Budget surpluses are turning in to budget deficits quickly.  Vox covered the tax revenue problem a couple of weeks ago and highlighted cities like Phoenix that were expecting a $28 million budget surplus but are now expecting a $26 million deficit, and states like New York are expecting a tax revenue loss of over $10 billion.

Retire and Replace Strategy

Economic developers with a lot of experience that are earning more than the average wage in the profession may be forced to retire early to free up some budget in many areas.  Early retirement incentives were a huge trend in the Great Recession, and cities like New Orleans are already reportedly working on an early retirement package to reduce short term costs.

However, with complex business challenges and an uncertain growth outlook, cities and states will have a greater need than ever to have strong economic development professionals.  With fundamental changes to our economy taking place, potentially for the long term, cities with foresight will continue to invest in economic development programs even with budget reduced budgets.

The Opportunity to Hire an All-Star 

Experienced economic developers may be finding themselves seeking better opportunities right now, and communities that are on the hunt for new economic developers are finding themselves in a position where the quality of candidates may be better than ever.  With some organizations uncertain about the future, organizations that are in a manageable financial situation that have a vision stand to gain all-star level talent. 

The job board has seen a steady flow of new positions available these past few months. The organizations that we are speaking with view the current moment as a pivotal time to focus on understanding new opportunities in a post-covid-19 economy.

Economic development is in for a year of transition.  For many economic developers, this could be a frustrating year full of uncertainty and for some, it could be a time to explore new organizations to serve!

About The Author

Craig, owner of Propel Development and, came into economic development in 2014. He fell in love with the strategic nature of the industry and is passionate about making a positive impact on communities as well as helping others find their niche in economic development.