With the onset of COVID-19, how community engagement happens must be rethought through the lens of physical distancing. Though limitations on gatherings make community outreach more challenging, technology and creative innovation offer new avenues for engaging residents, governments, community organizations, and other stakeholders in meaningful ways. UBRI developed a resource guide to help our team and community partners think about ways to transition engagement to a remote setting.

Download Community Distanced Engagement Resource Guide (PDF)
distanced engagement resource guide

We’re thinking about economic recovery now.

group sharing

Adapting the economic strategies (Placemaking, Innovation, Workforce, and Tradable Sectors) that have driven Western New York’s economy forward for the past decade will help rebuild a more inclusive, resilient, and prosperous regional economy as the nation faces challenges in post COVID-19 economic recovery.




Placemaking builds resilient, robust economies.

Where we invest matters. Investments near existing infrastructure connect people, especially those most affected by the crisis, with jobs, and create vibrant neighborhoods that attract a talented workforce and spark innovative companies to help regional economies recover. Investing in urban cores, town and village centers, and waterfronts reinforces equity, access, and sustainability—all crucial to a post-COVID-19 recovery. Creating livable communities fosters a more diverse regional business ecosystem that allows all employers to be successful, including small businesses, startups, and nonprofits. It promotes sustainable infrastructure, community anchors, and well-designed open spaces—collective amenities that contribute to the public health and livability of a community in times of uncertainty and in times of prosperity. Placemaking in a post-COVID-19 environment should have a particular focus on investments in downtown cores, smart city technology, public spaces and waterfront access, transit-oriented development, healthcare infrastructure, and the revitalization of strategic geographies.


Needs and opportunities for workforce development will reach new heights in the economic recovery

Employers will need to rapidly identify pools of skilled workers and training programs that influence the skills of the workforce pipeline to better align with their needs. As programs adapt to the “new normal,” it will be crucial to design evidence-based, flexible, inclusive, and industry-driven talent attraction and workforce training programs that increase economic opportunities and promote economic resilience. For example, there may be a shift away from traditional career pathways involving four-year degrees to higher-paying jobs that require two-year degrees or credentials, including those earned online. Jobs in key tradable sectors like healthcare and manufacturing will continue to grow in demand so training for these careers must adapt and grow, by incorporating new instructional tools, exploring collaborations with industry, and extending training opportunities to more workers, including those hit hardest by the recession. Attracting and retaining talent in high-growth, innovative, and essential sectors will be critical to regional prosperity. The opportunity to attract talent may be greater for small- and mid-sized cities, which are less dense and may become more desirable due to lower perceived public health risks compared to bigger metros. Workforce development will need to focus on manufacturing, skilled trades, tech, and other potential emerging and essential sectors, like healthcare.

Tradable Sectors

The most resilient and innovative job opportunities will rebuild the economy faster.

Investing in tradable sectors such as manufacturing, tourism, and health and life sciences, which create greater output and higher-paying jobs, will help the economy bounce back sustainably in a post-COVID-19 environment. Investment strategies in traditional and emerging tradable sectors will need to be reassessed, sharpened, and ramped up due to the critical needs, innovations, and unique opportunities that arise from the pandemic. For example, there is an unprecedented opportunity to grow life sciences companies that are pursuing life-saving discoveries and commercializing pharmaceuticals and medical devices that can be traded on a global scale. There needs to be a strategic health and life sciences agenda targeted at initiatives that continue to increase partnerships between academia and industry and facilitate the co-location of clinical and research & development functions to spur commercialization. Advanced manufacturing strategies should strengthen the workforce and boost research & development and innovation to grow existing firms and attract new ones. Tourism is among the hardest-hit by the economic crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic. When the world opens to travelers once again, additional strategic investments in tourism-based amenities and attractions will boost international appeal, and generate jobs and revenue.


Entrepreneurial innovation will help us address new challenges.

In a post-COVID-19 environment, we must strategically invest in regional innovation to encourage entrepreneurs and draw investors. Companies are innovating to stay viable in a time of extreme uncertainty, and as they transition their workforce to comply with stay-at-home orders. As we emerge from the crisis, it is that entrepreneurial spirit that will find solutions to new challenges and create resilience in the economy to keep Western New York moving forward. The region’s high-performing colleges and universities will become critically important to rebuilding the economy as they fuel STEM-intensive industries. Investments that generate more startup enterprises through supports for aspiring entrepreneurs and strengthening networks for collaboration for early-stage firm growth will be imperative to a post-COVID-19 recovery. There will also be a need to facilitate increased venture funding through structures that make it easier for funders to identify, assess and invest in market-viable businesses. Providing inclusive opportunity through minority- and women-owned business entrepreneurship for training and tailored support will ensure opportunities extend to all. Making the proper investments in the entrepreneurial ecosystem— startups, small businesses, nonprofits, and support networks— will attract entrepreneurs, grow STEM jobs, attract tech workers, and ensure a healthy, diverse business climate that is vital to create a resilient economy.