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Crisis creates opportunities that produce winners and losers. The geographic movement for millions of people (especially higher-salaried knowledge workers) living in the USA has been waking up in the suburbs, commuting into work in the center city or downtown, spending about half of their waking-hours in the city, and then returning home at night. Urban centers were the place people worked, went out for lunch, shopped for certain items, and where colleagues/friends would get together for happy hour before returning home. But COVID has changed this dynamic in a way that is not a trend, but a transition into a new and long-term behavior of activities permanently moving to where people live in the suburbs.
Although people are working from home, they still need products, services, and food. The difference is that now they need more of these products and services closer to where they live and less in the center city where they used to shop and eat. The pre-COVID market capacity was based on commuting workers only shopping and eating in these suburban locations a very limited amount of time 5 weekdays and then a solid 2 weekend days. The supply that matched the pre-COVID market is now woefully undersupplied in the new geographic economy as workers-from-home are now transitioning their shopping and eating that they used to do in the center city to their suburban neighborhoods.
This is not a temporary occurrence and is instead the start of a new long-term normal. The reason for this is that the extended period of work-from-home caused by COVID-19 has proven the viability of remote work, not only as an alternative to the centralized office system, but also a business model that has advantages, efficiencies, and cost savings. For those that were able to produce work at home, this long-term test is likely to result in a permanent hybrid model of some weekdays working in a centralized office and some weekdays working from home to take advantage of each geographic type of work.
What this will mean for suburbs:
- More total shopping supply is needed.
- Office supply stores expand to become home office supply stores.
- Empty suburban restaurants during lunch won’t be empty.
- Happy hour after work is for meeting up with friends, not extending time with colleagues.
- Third Places become more important and economically viable with increased demand.
- Suburbs benefit from the capacity to offer more space.
A gap in suburban supply will result in the market adjusting through the opening of new businesses. Current data shows that the United States is currently experiencing the biggest entrepreneurial boom most communities may ever see. Suburbs may get an even higher proportional share of new business starts. As such, economic development organizations that want to ride this massive wave of entrepreneurial activity must provide the types of assistance aspiring entrepreneurs need to open and sustain new businesses.
A common problem that aspiring entrepreneurs have is that the owner may be an expert in providing a product or service but is not knowledgeable about starting or operating a company. The City of Longwood can help with this by providing entrepreneurs with industry-specific market research that is geographically relevant that can be used to put together a business plan and validate or reject assumptions about the viability of the business by proving on.
Another type of assistance that entrepreneurs need is educational preparation as a means to reduce the new business failure rate. This can come by connecting into traditional small business education programs provided at community colleges and through Small Business Development Centers and SCORE. In addition, to meet the needs of aspiring entrepreneurs that may be exceedingly time-constrained or who may be transitioning from another job to start their own company, online education through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) provided by edX for from the private-sector company Udemy.
For additional assistance is starting or growing your business the following pages on our website can direct you to organizations than can assist you or information needed for your business plans. Feel free to visit: Starting a Business, Estimating Fees, Small Business Development, or Business Assistance Organizations.