By Terry Beswick–
So many industries experienced disruptions in the late 20th and early 21st centuries through tech booms and economic busts, but nothing has upturned virtually every business and consumer interaction like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Changes in technology and innovation that were already underway were fast-tracked, while some adaptations have been entirely new. And they just keep coming.
As the worst of the pandemic seems to have passed (knock on wood), what are we left with? What changes do we want to keep and which do we want to toss out so we can return to business as usual?
“Power Connect 2022: The New World of Business,” the Golden Gate Business Association (GGBA)’s annual signature event, is being reimagined in this transformative year to tackle these questions and more, with a particular focus on LGBTQ+ and ally-owned businesses.
On Friday, June 17, at SOMArts in San Francisco, the daylong confab will bring together small business owners, corporations and public agencies, not only to network and explore possible business opportunities but also to take a hard look at the new landscape we find ourselves in.
I’m reminded of the closing scene of Don’t Look Up on Netflix, when President Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her entourage, having escaped the Earth’s annihilation, emerge from their spaceship onto a new and interesting planet. Please don’t pet the Bronterocs!
As we emerge from our long Covid routines, sometimes the outlook here can seem just as bleak. To be sure, in the last few weeks I’ve enjoyed attending in-person events and small dinners again, sans mask. There’s no replacement for seeing people in person and having those serendipitous encounters that make life tick. And lots of people are going through the same thing, feeling hope despite everything wrong in the world.
But many people are struggling, here and abroad. Countless retail businesses have closed as the Bay Area’s economic recovery has lagged behind other major metropolitan areas. There is a huge surplus of office space, while most office workers continue to work from home at least a few days a week—and estimates are that about a third will continue to work entirely remotely for the foreseeable future. People have migrated out of the area for a lower cost of living and higher quality of life. The tourist industry is expected to take several years to recover to pre-pandemic levels. Retail theft and property crime are driving everyone nuts.
The ripple effects of these shifts on everything from the tax base to public services are profound, but the implications for many small businesses can mean permanent closure—or new opportunities for growth.
And at the same time, technological advances continue apace, demanding that we adopt new, more efficient, and cheaper ways of doing everything. The only constant is change. Many businesses—both small and large—have learned that to compete, they need to adapt, while others get left behind.
Driverless cars and security robots. Cryptocurrency and NFT’s. Metaverse economies. CRM’s. Online algorithms and TikTok influencers. Parklets and HVACs. Space tourism and corporate citizenship. Oh my. The growing economic divide and remedying racial and gender inequities. Lifting up our LGBTQ+ and other historically underrepresented business owners. Retraining our workforce.
There’s a lot to talk about as we confront the New World of Business. At Power Connect 2022, GGBA member businesses will be creating unique experiences and samplings for participants to enjoy, creating a fun fair environment, while attending workshops on ways to build their businesses in the 2020’s and beyond.
Through this and other programs throughout the year, the GGBA and our partners aim to give our members the tools and connections they need not only to survive the impacts of COVID-19, but also to embrace the changes that we see on the horizon today.
Terry Beswick is the Executive Director of the Golden Gate Business Association.
Published by: San Francisco Bay Times