Shifting to life after Covid: How remote work transformed this town in the Midwest


Michigan Avenue in Lansing, Michigan.

Mike Cline (NotCalvin) | moment | Getty Images

Lansing, Michigan will never be the same. bus stop city 110,000 inhabitants Known for its massive state capitol building, large convention center and proximity to campuses, it is trying to reshape itself for the post-Covid world.

It’s been more than three years since the global pandemic forced employees to work weeks away from offices, accustomed to in-person five-day days. Many desk workers are still working from home for at least a few weeks. This is because remote and hybrid work models originally adopted as a short-term solution have shown staying power even with the power The global public health emergency has been officially declared over.

In turn, the trend has changed the aesthetic and culture of downtown centers across the country that once could count on an influx of commuters. In Lansing, that change is seen in different working hours, more housing and new event venues as community and business leaders try to re-imagine what and who Downtown caters to. All of this is being done to attract people to live or visit because Lansing and other cities can no longer thrive on office-centric economies.

“We’re looking at how can we shift our energy from primarily serving one type of demographic to making sure that our downtown neighborhoods are welcoming and include everyone?” Downtown Lansing, Inc. said Kathleen Edgerly, executive director of the City of Coals, a nonprofit working on city culture and sustainability. The goal is to “create a downtown and community for the people who want to live there, not those who are coming in and out as quickly as possible.”

‘a rising tide’

workers across the country have pushed to have remote privileges Even as executives of giant companies such as disney To Tesla Try to get your employees back into the office at least part-time.

According to the data, a greater proportion of job listings across the country are offering at least one day of remote work than pre-pandemic. WFH Map In collaboration with a group of researchers and labor-market analysis firm Lightcast. It’s a sign that flexible work experiences are becoming increasingly common – and not just for jobs started before or during the pandemic.

Lansing had the largest share of job listings in March with at least one day of remote work of any city, according to WFH Map. Founder Peter Lambert, an economic PhD candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science, said capital cities and technology centers top the list, leaning towards remote-friendly industries including tech, finance, insurance, higher education and government .

“Lansing is a great case study because it ticks all the boxes above,” he said.

In the downtown area, Edgerly said the initial shift meant more than 1 million square feet of office space canceled with the start of the pandemic and a 30% reduction in commuting workers overnight. Since that shakeup, she said businesses have begun to shift to later evenings and weekends as the economic focus shifts away from commuters.

New community-oriented venues are also popping up. Plans for two entertainment venues have been announced in the hope of attracting visitors on nights and weekends. And, the owner of a Detroit food hall opened a similar spot in Lansing earlier this year.

About 40% of the first floor retail shops were vacant at one point, but that number is falling. namely, according to Edgerly, partly due to the success of A micro market business incubator Created to help merchants find a low-barrier place to work in Lansing for a year. Of past participants, Edgerly said all are still in business and four out of five have opened permanently in the city.

Between 300 and 400 residential housing units have also been added in the past few years, Edgerly said, as a comprehensive market analysis showed a need for more living spaces.

A view of downtown Lansing, Michigan.

Denistangnejr | E+ | Getty Images

Tourism still exists due to Lansing being the capital of Michigan, although the city is not as large as other cities in the state such as Detroit. About 115,000 people visit the capital every year, According to Govt.

At the Impression 5 Science Center, a museum, executive director Erik Larsen said his team began training with the local tourism bureau to better promote other experiences available to tourists. He said the goal is that more visitors will want to come if all their options are realized in traveling to the city.

“It’s a rising tide,” he said. “We want a really strong, vibrant small business community in the downtown core and beyond.”

State-wide initiatives such as the approval of outdoor business districts that allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages within their parameters have also helped to create an economic fabric between businesses. A visitor or resident can now, for example, buy a beer from a bar and see retail outlets in one visit.

Big changes are happening in other cities across the country as well.

In San Francisco, which has become somewhat of a national symbol for office exodus, less than half the number of workers commuting to the city before the pandemic hit the city on a weekly basis in early April, according to city data. Office of Workforce and Development, And a analysis by bloomberg It was found that working remotely cost Manhattan more than $12 billion annually.

‘a better place’

Despite progress, challenges remain for the local economy.

Carl Dorsheimer, president of the Lansing Economic Development Corporation, said the biggest challenge for businesses is still the labor shortage in the retail and service sectors. He said rising wages have attracted some workers back but have not completely resolved the issue. (Lansing unemployment rate Significantly lower than at the height of the pandemic, but still above where it sat before stay-at-home orders went into effect in 2020.)

Child care costs also remain a challenge, especially for women in the local labor market, according to Keith Lambert, chief operating officer of the Lansing Economic Area Partnership. LEAP has helped launch a coalition aimed at reducing child care costs after the issue’s impact on the workforce became clear during the pandemic.

Similarly, Lambert said that big businesses are starting to think about their role in improving transportation in the region. According to many small business owners, the lack of parking has also hindered businesses and visitor interest.

Lansing, Michigan, USA at the Michigan State Capitol during the evening.

Sean Pavone | stock | Getty Images

Economic development leaders and business owners alike note that there is still room for progress. Mike Mahdi, owner of the New Daily Bagel, said he still doesn’t have enough foot traffic to support the weekend, but he’s seen a better mix of street clothes and office attire among customers.

But those who have seen the ups and downs of downtown certainly recognize at least the first signs of a tide change. Stewart Powell, who has worked at Lynn & Owen Jewelers downtown for nearly four decades, said he preferred a more traditional location away from downtown, operating as a “very large food court” with a diverse mix of businesses and customers. The city has seen a change. Ever since the pandemic took hold.

“I believe that in the long run, it will become a better place,” he said. “Not because of Covid, but in spite of Covid.”

Source link