A better economy “after”

McKinsey, the global business consulting firm, is trying to imagine business “after.” Some of McKinsey’s arguments resonate with me: putting resilience before efficiency (by shortening supply chains so that consumers, producers, and suppliers live and operate in zip codes nearer each other). Other suggestions, like strengthening the global financial system, to me suggest locking in more firmly economics that overlook inclusiveness.  

Their piece prompted me to think about what I want “after.”

When businesses re-open, where do I want to go? Not to the Apple store, not to Best Buy. I don’t crave deliveries from Amazon. I want to go to my local brewpub, a local vegetarian restaurant, my gym (a one-of-a-kind, not a chain), a local bookstore.

Get the picture?

How would I want places like those to operate? I want them to treat their employees well: thrive-able wages, health insurance, paid time off. Haven’t we just learned that deliverymen (and women), ambulance drivers and EMTs, grocery clerks, and others we usually take for granted are “essential?” Then why we don’t we treat them as if they are valuable?

I’d prefer that my local businesses offer options for the entire community, not just those who can afford their products: One model is something like EveryTable, where food is prepared centrally, but sold in two very different settings: in upscale parts of LA, where upscale LA prices are charged; and in lower income parts of LA (where quality food may not be accessible), where the prices are lower. The same food is sold in high-income and low-income neighborhoods, and both low- and high-end locations are profitable — the higher-income stores fueling growth. The food is fresh, healthful, accessible, and affordable — for everyone.

I’d also prefer if local businesses look beyond their boundaries a bit, too. Ann Arbor, MI, where I live, has had “sister cities” in Belize, Senegal, Japan, Cuba, Nicaragua, Germany, and Canada. Apparently, some kind of courtship takes place. Like can pair with like (Ann Arbor and Tubingen, Germany are “like twins raised in different countries”) or sister-ing can take place between opposites (Belize City being where “primitive conditions remain in the wake of modern achievement,” according to our local library). Somehow, these courtships end up in cultural exchange.

What about economic exchange among geographic neighbors?

Ann Arbor is more fortunate than many of its neighbors — its actual neighbors, not its overseas sisters. The world class university here long ago set off a chain reaction of: appealing jobs, skilled workers, good wages, disposable, income, a vibrant downtown, green space, good schools, and a housing stock of desirable homes.

Nearby, where there aren’t similar anchor tenants, each of those may be lacking.

Could Ann Arbor build economic “sister relationships” with its neighbors down the road? It seems possible, though I’m not yet sure how. My town’s good fortune could spill over city lines, helping “flatten” (yes, that word) the differences in fortunes between neighbors.

Have thoughts?


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