Economic Development: Digital-First – Virtual-First – People-First – Global-First

By Thomas B. Cross CEO TECHtionary and

1-Minute Read

Having been involved in large scale regional multi-state economic development “crystal ball” futuristic planning projects is now changing like an egg dropped from on high splattering across the planet.  This means in a post pandemic world even more competition for people, places, products, property along with the emerging business, climate change and things we haven’t even considered.  Competition for companies that operated previously for centuries or even a year ago meant a siloed business framework for creating a physical office, manufacturing, warehouse, hospital, port, university or special environment for jobs, people, products, and services.  While much of this will remain as you will still need a very big plant to build cars, planes, trains and much more, there will be a dramatic virtual-digital-people-first business model that will transform everything even faster and more widely than the advent of the internet did.  Here’s a few thoughts:

People-first is like the agile mental nervous system of the body, nerves can connect places that moving muscles cannot, new businesses and legacy fortresses will change all the way people think and do in the face of vast business process automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, quantum and more.  In practical terms, this means for many moving “beehives” of people from one place to another continent without anyone noticing.

As IP or intellectual property morphs into the world of intellectual people we find that people don’t have to, nor want to drive an hour or even ten minutes each way to work when they can do it all and much more from their couch.  Even “hoteling” shared office space, branch offices and many other forms of office will change, economic development will change from the physical space of being to a mental state of being.  One small example is that a business colleague living in Texas just changed jobs from a Silicon Valley company to a Seattle one without even going to his garage or ever going to the earlier job in Silicon Valley to begin with.  Do this a million or tens of millions of times and you can also see that businesses also can hire, fire, transform themselves without adding a desk, office or even a coffee mug.  The idea of an office is now the dinosaur just waiting to die or transform itself.  The idea of digital-first and virtual-first (I prefer the latter as digital is technology and virtual is a strategy) is the new means of commerce as companies and employees alike see themselves very differently.  If anything, the office will come to them digitally-first before they travel to the office, customers, or other spaces.  I am not naive to think that this is for everyone or everything, however technologies like artificial intelligence and realities, quantum computing, biotech and others will impact all of us in ways we can understand and possibly not until the harm or unanticipated consequences are realized.

Global-first is when you start a business, you can, however, forget local, start globally, virtually with digital technology, and grow the business with a virtual-first business model.  Those involved in economic development can easily visualize that millions of jobs can move into or away globally from their area of influence in a blink of an eye.  Local business development is already being dramatically impacted with this new model as any business starts globally and then thinks locally.  For others there is rapid dispersion of people and solutions like dropping an egg on the floor and seeing all the pieces scattered across the region.  People can literally live anywhere as vast digital technology (at least if you believe the ads) is available almost anywhere and more is coming via new infrastructure as even the remotest places can benefit from a global-first strategy. 

Summary – Keeping this to about one-minute I conclude with – if you are the egg then drop yourself and see what could happen as this is what is happening to every part of your business, culture, customers, and governments.  If you don’t, the rest of the world will drop it for you as they are not going to wait for you anymore. If you want more, I have a lot more but rather than crack all the eggs are once I am open to suggestions on topics for future articles – email me at