Local Economic Development Services

What is Economic Development?VisionEconomics Slide3

Economic Development is the effort to create and sustain the financial well being of a community. It is also referred to as local “Wealth Generation.”  A strong economic development program revolves around the quality of life available in a community.

Economic Development is really all about jobs.  When people have jobs, the financial base of a community is thereby supported, which contributes directly the local quality of life.  Without adequate jobs, the local economy underperforms.  Lack of wealth contributes to a financially weak community where business failures increase & local govt. lacks a sufficient tax base to provide adequate public services.

Economic Development is also about quality of life issues and the attitude of a community towards its financial base & how decisions are made by a community’s leadership.

Some may think that economic development only relates to attracting existing businesses to relocate to a community.  A community’s economic health and prosperity is also impacted by jobs created, the success of business retention and expansion efforts, small business and entrepreneurial development, tourism and even retiree attraction.   In reality, the ultimate goal of economic development is to improve the quality of life for the people who live in a community.  Jobs created by local business investment create the financial ability of community members to buy goods and services, fund business start-ups (what I call organic growth) and sustain existing businesses and the local jobs that they provide. Strong economies at all levels of government produce tax revenues, which allow governments to achieve their missions in education, infrastructure, citizen welfare, and service delivery.

Economic development encompasses many different disciplines, including economics, business, political science, public administration, marketing and communications, sociology, community planning, education, and others.  The so-called “moving parts” of economic development involve a diverse range of participants that include local & state governments, special agency districts, chambers of commerce, non-profit groups, private business and even the federal government.  In brief, it is about creating an environment in which local dollars are generated by economic activity whereby local revenues are generated and recycled in the same community through the purchase and sale of good and services, frequently referred to the “multiplier effect.”

VisionEconomics Slide2Successful local economies are built around a strong and diverse local community. Economic vitality is substantially influenced by the quantity and quality of the local elected leaders in a community and how, individually and collectively, they talk, decide, act, and interact with one another. These aspects of a community are part of the process, as is business marketing, financial incentives and job and business recruitment of building a viable and sustainable local economic structure.  As a writer on the subject once wrote, communities “….often overemphasize marketing and sales (industrial recruiting) and pay too little attention to product development (improving the quality of life in the community).”  Without quality of life, or the prospect of improving a community’s quality, the chances of creating and sustaining a successful economic development plan are unlikely to succeed.


Basics of a community’s economic development plan

You need to identify a community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (aka SWOT) to determine what course of action is needed to strengthen a community.  Considerations should include the following:

  • Business climate within local government & populace
  • Look at diversity of local economy
  • Available office, manufacturing, R & D and retail space to meet expansion & attraction needs
  • Favorable lease & purchase options
  • Level of available workforce, including numbers, employment levels, level of education
  • Consider diversity of job skills needed, existing
  • Develop marketing approach & subsequent advertising plan – social media, webpage, etc.
  • Available housing for lower income, mid-income and executive-level employees
  • Identification of target market for attracting business relocation prospects
  • Availability of local incentives (land, money, employee training, tax incentives)
  • Balance of business community components: 1) retail selection; 2) professionals; 3) medical services; 4) R & D space & jobs; 5) manufacturing space & jobs
  • Availability of developable & redevelopable land
  • Tax barriers
  • Community’s need for more services, jobs & tax generation
  • Existing tax base (sales taxes, TOT, income taxes, property taxes) – low, right level, too high?
  • Available infrastructure: 1) Internet; 2) rail; 3) air service; 4) water resources; 5) electric grid, natural gas & other energy resources
  • Growth of jobs – what is target?  S/B higher wage jobs in order to grow the local economy
  • Efforts at business attraction – what are they and what industries or types of businesses should be targeted?
  • Efforts of business retention –
    • Organic business growth
    • Level of local & regional cooperation
    • Level of regional resources of support