Meet Kai Liepins
This week our #WednesdayswithMDBInsight post introduces our newest team member, Kai Liepins, Research Analyst. Like the rest of us at MDB Insight, Kai is currently working from home as we all try to halt the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
When did you join the MDB Insight team? And what surprised you the most about your first month with the firm?
I joined the team at MDB Insight at the beginning of 2020. The most surprising aspect I found within my first month working at the firm was the diversity of the projects that we work on, both in terms of the nature of the work (e.g. workforce planning, cultural development, economic plans, and tourism strategies) and also widespread geographic locations of each community.
What was the coolest task you worked on in your first few weeks as a Research Analyst?
I had the opportunity to attend the Economic Developers Council of Ontario (EDCO) annual conference back in February, before the pandemic led to closures and cancellations. I was fortunate because the conference was an incredible opportunity to learn more about best practices within the economic development industry in Ontario and more importantly to meet fellow economic developers from around the province. Everyone was extremely friendly and welcoming, and I’m guessing it was one of the last large gatherings any of us attended.
What are you reading right now that you would recommend?
In the face of the outbreak of coronavirus or COVID-19, I have been following a lot of publications and news articles regarding the effect this outbreak is having on the global economy and locally here in Canada. The economic implications of this virus are huge and we as a society are seeing these impacts being reflected in the stock market, business earnings and consumer purchasing confidence. The future is looking remarkably uncertain on many fronts, and at the moment I am trying my best to keep up with the latest quality information as it becomes available.
When travel resumes once again, if you could work on a project in any community in Canada which one would it be and why?
Ever since I first came to Canada as a student in 2016, I have always wanted to venture up north to explore the dramatic landscapes and meet residents in those communities. Specifically, it has been a dream of mine to visit Churchill during the polar bear season and to also see the northern lights. So, I would say a tourism strategic plan for the Town of Churchill that would involve a lot of stakeholder consultation would be perfect!
Are there any particular trends you’re watching or developments in the field that you’re following closely?
From a tourism perspective, I am interested in seeing how technology is changing how tourists view and interact with regions and how municipalities can become better at leveraging digital tools to enhance their tourism brand. Specifically, the rise of social media influencers and platforms such as AirBnb Experiences is changing how tourism operators and communities can market their destinations. We are now able to target customers with high levels of precision so that we can attract visitors who will connect with a region’s brand. Technology is also lowering the price point when compared to traditional TV or print media meaning that implementation of these strategies is more feasible. Overall, I am excited about the possibilities that these tools bring to create compelling destination brands and how they will evolve into the future.
What’s the most helpful or complimentary feedback you’ve received from one of our clients recently?
Speaking with past clients at the Economic Developers Conference of Ontario (EDCO) in February and hearing about what they had to say about working with MDB Insight over the past decade or so was a wonderful experience. Nearly everyone I spoke to had heard of or had dealt directly with our firm and had nothing but positive things to say. Also, hearing firsthand the impact some of our strategies have had on shaping communities was inspiring and has encouraged me to work even harder to ensure I create the most value possible when working on my projects.
What do you think are the key issues facing economic development as a profession over the next few years?
As I mentioned, I believe in the short- and long-term economic development professionals across Canada will be severely challenged by the outbreak of coronavirus. From a tourism standpoint alone, there have been massive repercussions to everything from accommodation bookings to airline pricing and restaurant dining. Multiple high-profile sporting and cultural events have been canceled or postponed and there remains much uncertainty about when these restrictions will end. With that uncertainty, and the range of responses from governments and businesses around the globe, it is extremely difficult to know what will happen in concrete economic terms. Projections from firms such as Bloomberg have put the global economic impact of COVID-19 in the trillions of dollars.
Looking forward, economic development professionals across Canada will be engaging with new strategies to stimulate growth within their regions, especially within sectors like tourism, retail and manufacturing, to encourage consumer confidence and spending. This will not be easy, but I believe we can all work together and I remain hopeful about what’s to come.
Describe what the role of a Research Analyst looks like ten years from now – what’s different?
I believe the role of Research Analysts will continue to be focused on finding quality data and secondary research sources that can be used to gain a better insight into the economic health of communities. As the economy continues to develop, and new industries emerge, Research Analysts will need to continue to quickly become knowledgeable about new sectors and the economic development opportunities within them. Keeping up with the sheer rate of new information and being able to sort the good from the bad will be challenging but it will help us to develop better strategies and recommendations for clients.
To learn more about Kai and the other members of our team, go to https://mdbinsight.com/team-bios/