Why is it important for downtown small businesses to reopen? As many have stated, we need to think about life after COVID-19, and the new norm that we will all have to become accustomed to. One of the major trends that is already beginning, will be people migrating out of major cities. In a recent Axios report it was stated that, “Nearly one-third of Americans are considering moving to a less densely populated area because of the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a Harris Poll survey released Thursday.”
In addition to the suburbs becoming more attractive, many smaller, less dense, tier two or three cities will be poised for growth. The trend had already begun with millennials preferring the suburbs, but in my opinion, this post COVID-19 world will accelerate the migration out of major densely populated cities and change what our future communities will look like. Clearly the actions that many of our public leaders took were necessary, but the effects of stay at home and quarantine orders have and will continue to be deeply felt, perhaps longer than the risk of actually becoming sick with COVID-19.
What will this look like
Communities and Main Streets need to come together to support each other in the recovery phase. As always, this starts with our small businesses and local non-profits. Main Street USA, is synonymous with the American dream and is ultimately a reflection of the success of a particular location. As the population movement accelerates, it will be vital for places like downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, (headquarters of York IE) to have a vibrant and diverse downtown atmosphere.
People moving to the ‘small cities’ will still be in search of many of the amenities they had grown accustomed to with city living. We cannot afford to have vacant storefronts, shuttered restaurants, or closed theaters, museums, bookstores, etc. We need more green spaces, walkable sidewalks, cafes, small retail, music venues, breweries, and art galleries. The ‘cool factor’ must be obvious and immediate to out of town visitors who will be envisioning their new life, working from home/remotely, and having a way to safely find entertainment and enjoyment in their neighborhoods. The old way of doing things may not be enough for your business to survive.
During downturns and crises, the best business leaders look to innovate and improve. They do not allow the things that are out of their control to ruin their livelihoods, they see it as an opportunity to build better and stronger foundations, businesses, and communities. And this is where a community must come together, lean on each other and support those that are willing to adapt.
Lending a Hand for All to Move Together
When myself and a few local business leaders decided it was time to lend a helping hand to small business owners, we were thinking of the future for all. We saw it as an opportunity to bring creativity, innovation, and a different mindset to people who may struggle to discover new ways of doing what they have always done. We do not have all of the answers and will not pretend to, but what we do promise is a unique and diverse way of looking at problems and figuring out solutions. Now is the time to evaluate your business model and play to your strengths. And it’s on us as a community to support these leaders and give them the confidence and conviction they need to adapt or die!