The Post Pandemic Economy: a New Tipping Point
First, please understand that I do NOT have a crystal ball and I cannot see into the future. I have had a lot of education/training in economics, so for what that’s worth, what do I see coming out of the pandemic.
A much slower overall recovery for the national economy than most might think. We have lost such a large critical mass of jobs over the last year and most of those won’t be immediately available when we reach the tipping point of the pandemic and start to come out the other side.
If you are interested in this type of explanation of social change, let me suggest the book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference is the debut book by Malcolm Gladwell. Gladwell states: "Ideas and products and messages and behaviors spread like viruses do. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tipping_Point
The amount of dollars spent on food never really took a major dive. It simply shifted from the restaurant industry back to traditional grocery stores. So how fast will it shift back to restaurants?
My guess is it will vary greatly from region to region. In Oklahoma, pretty quickly. For the past thirty years Oklahoma has ranked very high in the number of restaurants per 1,000 people. This last year, Oklahoma was ranked 4th in the Nation. We like convenience, a lot. How fast the industry can add jobs will be interesting to watch plus how fast the food entrepreneurs will reopen locations vacated during the pandemic.
Manufacturing in my opinion will be fine. There was big talk about a lot of companies bringing their offshore factories back to US soil because of the problems in the supply chain. A number of big companies outside the USA jumped into the logistics and shipping industry during the pandemic, so I’m not looking for a major repatriation of manufacturing to materialize. The supply chain problems seem to be organically solved inside the industry. Except for the USPS. I hope they’re just overwhelmed and there is not a systemic problem. Overall, there has not been a slow down (after the first 90 days or so) in the economic development industry. Our office has even experienced a surge in interest in new factory locations. All of the clients we had before the pandemic started are still interested in Okmulgee, plus we picked up a couple of new clients. Will Okmulgee win everyone of these prospective deals, not likely. It would also be atypical if we didn’t land a couple of them. Only time will tell.
I haven’t read a lot about Telecommunications, nor data processing, but most technology companies seem to be doing OK, or have even seen an uptick in sales due to people staying at home, and education being reinvented. Have you checked out the prices of hardware in the computer gaming industry? Needless to say our grandkids better hope mom and dad come through because grandpa and grandma are not players.
The car and truck industry seem to have chosen the pandemic period as a great time to re-tool factories and introduce E-Cars at an amazing rate.
Retail? Have we seen the beginning of the end for brick-and-mortar stores? All the indicators are NO. There’s something organic about our nature to touch and experience the product in person that will keep Retail in good old-fashioned stores. Yes, online shopping with free shipping captured a significant market share, but it is NOT the beginning of the end. I have also read where the free shipping incentive to buy online is an unsustainable business model. When I need a plumbing fixture or some lumber, I’m not interested in waiting for a delivery truck, I want (need) it now.
Summary? There’s an old axiom that says: All space, time and budget will get used up. As fast as we all want to return to the old ways, in my humble opinion, it won’t start soon and it won’t happen fast when it finally does. The new normal, whatever that ends up being, will be a mixture of new and old. The day will be won by women and men in leadership positions that have better ideas and they know how to reach the new Tipping Point first.
Thanks for reading the OADC articles this year. We also hope you are as excited about the future of Okmulgee as we are. Please be careful, stay safe and Happy Holidays.
Court Newkirk is the Executive Director of Okmulgee Area Development Corp (OADC). A native of Oklahoma, he has decades of community and economic development experience, some of which was in Okmulgee in the 90s. Court is a big believer that Okmulgee can be anything it wants to be, if we all work together. Contact Court at Court@ChooseOkmulgee.com.