Now is the Time to Reimagine Our Economy

Now is the Time to Reimagine Our EconomyClick here to learn more

 Our economy has been devasted in ways that none of us imagined. National unemployment continuesto rise.  It is not unrealistic to expectthat the unemployment rate will crest at 30%. As daunting as this number seems, unemployment will be worse in the mostchallenged segments of the community. Pre-COVID unemployment in African American and Hispanic communities wastriple the national average.  

COVID-19 is an economic disaster forcommunities of color.  It is hitting small business, MBEs and hourly/gigworkers in ways that most of us don’t understand. JPMorgan Chase Instituteresearchers recently noted that Black and Latinx community businesses onaverage do not have the working capital to endure the pandemic. In general, thesebusinesses have less than 21 days of cash on hand to pay creditors, meetpayroll and continue operations.  The Paycheck Protection Program did notprovide the help these businesses need to survive.  Many will perish.


As dire asthese statements are, recovery is possible. In fact, it is more than possible. Now is the time for us to correctsome of the systemic wrongs that plagued our society prior to thepandemic.  We must rebuild oureconomy.  The challenge is whether wewill use this time to recreate what was lost or do we have to the audacity, thetenacity, the creativity, and the courage to chart a new path for ourcommunity.  We have a choice to make.  Will we choose business as usual, which weargue is not possible, or will we accept the challenge to create a better andstronger Philadelphia?  

Our new economymust be built around the 5 Rs:

  • Recognition – Acknowledging     the full scope of the economic damage done to our community.  Recognition requires that we look at the     total impact of the pandemic.  We     cannot ignore the impact on MBEs, African American and Hispanic workers’ and     historically low-income workers who were not thriving before COVID-19.
  • Recovery – Focusing on     the immediate survival needs of the community has been essential.  The economy fell apart at lightening     speed and has required that every resource be directed toward food,     healthcare and stabilizing K-12 education.   This is a response.  It is not a strategy for recovery.  We have been responding to the impact of     COVID-19.  Actual recovery will     require a plan to rebuild the economy.       A robust economy is sustainable.      A response plan, no matter how robust, is not a long-term     strategy.  A robust economy equips     every family to be self-sustaining.       We can use this time to design an economy, a healthcare system,     including mental healthcare and K-12 education which empowers all members     of the community.
  • Reimagining – To that     end, our strategy must be focused on what will be done differently.  This conversation is not one simply     about increasing the use of remote working and remote learning. Such a     plan merely side steps the real issues and sends us down a rabbit hole of     retrenchment.  As we rebuild, this     is an opportunity to establish the society we assert that we want: a     society where talent and effort drive success not race or class. Now is     the time.  Our current     pandemic is an opportunity to champion new directions
  • Reform     –     Consistent with Reimagining, this is the time to remove the barriers to     inclusion.  Given our shared goal of     a robust economy that reduces unemployment and poverty, we need to remove     the legal and financial barriers to full productivity.  Rather than retrench and pull back from     bringing MBEs to the table, recovery will require that we focus on     maximizing the entire talent pool.
  • Resilience     –     We may have been knocked down, but we are not knocked out.  Hospitality and tourism represent 1/3 of     our regional economy.  It can return     and will return.  Creating a safe     clean and welcoming environment which will attract more visitors means     investing in human capital and technology to set the standard for the     hospitality and tourism industry.      Likewise, maximizing the technological competitiveness that our     region boasts will launch us forward.      These industries as well as medicine and education will generate     jobs for people at all levels of education and opportunities for small     businesses if we dare to rise to the challenge.


The5 Rs: Recognition, Recovery, Reform, Reimagining and Resilience are theblueprint for a new dialogue; a strategic path forward that includes all of us.  


Anessential element of ensuring that we bring all players to the table and thatwe do not leave any business or people out means that Not-For-Profits must beat the table.  We are the voice of smallbusiness, MBEs, WBEs and low-income workers.  Enlightened small and mid-marketbusiness leaders must also be at the table. Small and mid-market businesses arethe biggest creators of jobs in the economy.  Together Not-For-Profit and Business leaderswill provide our community with the right resources and tools to rebuild.  Collectively we can provide the path forwardfor our region to rebuild.


Currently,disenfranchised voices are infrequently heard at the economic dinner table. Intruth, marginalized people are served leftovers from a gluttonous menu ofinequality. COVID-19 is the expression of this long-standing social feedingfrenzy at the expense of the poor.  Letus unit and reimage a future Delaware Valley of shared economic abundance.


Judge Renée CardwellHughes, President & CEO, Philadelphia OIC, Michael Pearson, Principal,Michael K. Consulting, Jeff Hornstein, Executive Director, The Economy League,David E. Griffith, Executive Director, Episcopal Community Services, Andrea Custis,President & CEO, Urban League of Philadelphia, Della Clark, President &CEO, Enterprise Center and Cheryl Beth Kuchler,  The CEO Think Tank