When USTomorrow was introduced in August 2019, our mission was to reduce hyper-partisan influence and political stalemate by helping communities and candidates establish common cause, shared goals, and practical approach to the issues being left behind. Jobs, education, and our kids’ futures were (and remain) at risk.
The unaddressed and growing workforce readiness crisis became USTomorrow’s cross-partisan rallying cry and launch issue priority. The misalignment between education, training, and jobs negatively impacts all Americans — urban, rural, red, and blue.
By early fall 2019, we had designed, built, and launched the Workforce Initiative — a series of engagement and education products — and assembled a network of partners, communities, candidates, and campaigns interested in establishing a higher expectation of public service.
We went into the field in October 2019, strengthening the core of our argument, media interest, and momentum around the launch of Workforce Initiative Survey 1: a statewide assessment of economic developers and community influencers to identify the local issues being left behind in the churn of divisive politics.
Early results of Survey 1 can be found here.
By the end of 2019, we had traveled across Texas, gaining the insight of communities and community leaders on region-specific workforce readiness challenges and how to overcome America’s toxic politics to resolve the problem.
To establish federal and state candidate expectation of USTomorrow’s new, voter-derived data in advance of the November elections, in January 2020. we began outreach and education in earnest, training economic development organizations on the use of Survey 2, designed to assess resident sentiment on economic health and opportunity.
A third survey, measuring and contrasting sentiment in the Texas business community, was to follow in March.
Collectively, these three survey instruments would provide the foundation for productive, non-partisan dialog within every community.
Instead, March brought COVID-19, a threat that effectively ended our in-person introductions and understandably consumed the focus of USTomorrow’s growing base of stakeholders.
Like every American enterprise, the pandemic required us to make some adjustments.
Common sense suggested that the pandemic would provide a common, if tragic, cause around which all Americans could rally. But when the virus itself became a partisan issue and the crippling workforce and economic implications began to become clear, we paused a capital campaign, doubled down on existing infrastructure, retooled platforms and partnerships, and refined our strategy, introducing a new leadership path for the organization.
With our partners Polco and the National Research Center, we immediately designed and launched resident and employer surveys to the UST community, adding our community’s voice to a deeper examination of the emerging threat.
In May 2020, we released the results of the UST resident and employer surveys, which informed work underway by the National League of Cities and was replicated by the state of Colorado.
Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of our More Data, Better Planning, Less Politics analysis of the UST COVID-19 response surveys are posted for public review.
In July 2020, as politicization of the pandemic accelerated and the economy continued to crumble, UST, Texas Association of Business, Texas Economic Development Council and a host of statewide and regional economic development and industry groups launched the reengineered, statewide Workforce Initiative.
Phase 1 of the initiative centered on the Return to Work Survey, designed to work past the politics and establish common ground on safely reopening Texas businesses and getting Texans back to work.
That work included the development of the Return to Work Guide, a unique, no-politics tool for business owners, policymakers, and community leaders to navigate the current health and economic crises while building toward a stronger, shared future.
UST and partners released the Return to Work Survey results for use by economic advocates and policymakers during the 87th Texas Legislature. As a result of the catastrophic Winter Storm Uri and the subsequent failures of the energy, crisis response, and leadership grids, the data also provided a unique perspective on the general preparedness and resilience of the Texas economy.
The work ahead lies in reconciling the political noise, focusing on the facts, and introducing a new policy safety net for our citizens and communities. Our research and advocacy will provide a snapshot of the sentiment on Main Streets around the state.
These struggling engines of our economy are the ear the policy community needs to speak to and the voice the political community needs to hear.