Thinking about outcomes in this New Year, with all its changing perspectives, can be daunting at best.
Socrates teaches us to always begin with a definition, of course, and perhaps the most human challenge of all lies not in our ability to provide the right answers but in our ability to ask the right questions.
That said, let’s consider as a region our five most important economic questions as we move into 2023:
- We’ve acknowledged, either happily or in our disquietude, that remote work is here to stay. A better emerging question might be how much remote work is a good thing and how much begins to change the fabric of our region? Employers across the region will in 2023 struggle to define the right amount of remote work, balancing a scarce labor pool with the requirement to provide services in a visitor economy.
- Will big chunks of the workforce re-emerge from their sabbaticals, or have significant segments of the workforce simply decided to not return to the labor market? It will take some economic pressure to reveal that answer, of course, as well as a perhaps uncomfortable recognition of changing demographics (the labor force, potentially, continues to shrink as 25-55 aged working populations decline). Perhaps the defining strategic issue over the next decade regionally will be the dynamic of a shrinking workforce serving an increasing demand for goods and services.
- Was the 2020-2023 economic boom an aberration–albeit a welcome one–or an enduring trend? We’ll know this year, probably in the next few weeks as travelers make vacation plans. The right answer, confoundingly, is probably a simple “yes.”
- Will we begin to see the telltale signs of a regional approach to our challenges or will we continue to act, on a county basis, independent of one another? Competitively, much of the State is increasingly collaborative in attracting new industry, building existing infrastructure, and resourcing education. Can we learn from this trend?
- From a policy perspective, much of northeastern North Carolina has not seen the population booms of the rest of the State over the past several years even while North Carolina as a whole has seen “top-three” population gains nationally with Virginia a top-five (51 of our 100 counties have lost population in recent years). That translates, of course, into political power via population and commerce. Will we, as a region, get closer to Raleigh and Charlotte in our policy prescriptions or further from it? The answer to that question will, in sequence, answer a multitude of others.
These questions and many others will be present in many of our day-to-day challenges as we collectively seek to move our destinations and our shared commerce engines forward. As we develop our strategies for growth and vibrancy, the ultimate test is in determining which of these five are the most important and in making our resource decisions accordingly.
“Sound Strategy”, a weekly commentary from our publisher Clark Twiddy, features issues, ideas and information focused on our mission statement of “Covering the Business News of the Greater Outer Banks”.
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