The economic development plan of a city or town is the closest thing to a formal and comprehensive road map for future growth and prosperity. Its purpose: to articulate a set of goals, strategies, and action plans that guide an area’s economy toward expanding employment opportunities, increasing incomes, and growing businesses.
What Do You Want To Achieve?
Economic development is fueled by a community’s sense of shared destiny. It begins with an inward-looking process that helps decide what sort of community the stakeholders want to live in—today and in the future. Economic development must be about more than jobs and tax revenue, although these are important results. A successful plan outlines a desired quality of life, a shared vision of a better quality of life, and an overall direction that acts as a catalyst for change.
Individuals may have different views about what constitutes a “better community,” but elected officials usually have an idea about their constituents’ needs and desires. What comes out of the initial brainstorming process should not be ignored—it’s a valuable input into the plan. However, elected officials and economic development professionals should also look outside the jurisdiction to identify and align with partners and opportunities that help achieve the community’s vision.
What Are The Goals?
The challenges of today can easily be overshadowed by a desired future state. Economic developers have long known it is important to be able to step back from the day-to-day activities, look around, take stock of their communities, and define what the future state should look like. When it comes to talent attraction, this is an essential step in creating a winning marketing message that can be used in bid documents or in public relations strategies.
These components need to be effective, well-managed, and scalable.
This is the most important activity as investment decisions are key to economic development. This investment needs to be a long-term investment as an investment in any form which does not bring sustainable benefits will not support a competitive economy. Projects also need to consider economies of scale, technical feasibility, investment return, and the market.
The project needs to be sustainable over time which includes an investment of sufficient investment finance at appropriate times in the investment program that provides a basis by which investment decisions can be made.
This is a key activity as business growth impacts employment opportunities independently of the success of the investment attraction process. Organizations such as Chambers of Commerce and Local Development Corporations can play a significant role in business development activities that create new or retain existing jobs directly.
The promotion activities should be focused on creating new opportunities and retaining and growing existing businesses. Existing and successful businesses bring significant capital and employment opportunities to communities.
Commercial Property Management
Commercial property management is an ongoing activity that ensures that land and buildings are available to businesses at the right time, place, size, cost, quality, location, design, etc. It also includes the ongoing development of commercial facilities for rent or purchase which are appropriate for industry sectors.
This activity should include ongoing promotion of available commercial property to businesses including the use of professional services such as local or national property consultants, surveys, and appraisals.
New Business Creation/Start-up
The creation of new businesses is an essential component in achieving economic growth. It helps create employment opportunities that are sustainable over time, has a wider influence on industry clusters, provides an entry point into the local business community for new entrepreneurs, creates new job opportunities.
Start-ups can be connected to existing research and industry networks in the area which helps them obtain access to appropriate information, venues for collaboration, financing.
Workforce development is an ongoing activity that provides relevant skills at all levels of the workforce. It enhances the skills of potential employees to meet employer needs and increases the mobility and availability of a skilled workforce as businesses look globally for people with the right expertise.
The local government has an important role in ensuring that there are investments, business development activities that create new opportunities, market information systems that support industry sectors, employment for those who want to work and the available workforce has the necessary skills.
In order to do this, there needs to be professional support from a range of service providers including strategic marketing consultants, planners, commercial property managers, local development companies, institution-based research organizations, etc. This component should be developed in conjunction with key business stakeholders from industry sectors that are the drivers of the economy.
Promoting the economy is complex, but it’s necessary. The way to attract business investment and grow the local economy on a sustained basis is to provide appropriate support; this has to be done through ongoing development that breaks down into key components.