I borrowed most of this from Don Macke’s 10 Keys to Local Success (with related thoughts from me).
- First key is Local Responsibility. There are federal, state and private resources and initiatives that can be most helpful but the decision to act or not act on economic development rests with localities. For example, the U.S. Export/Import Bank is a wonderful resource for small businesses but it is unlikely to be used or even accessed unless communities help link their small businesses with this resource. (There are consultants who can bring models and challenge the discussion but a local group needs to own and run it and sort through their own politics.)
- Second key is a Smart Game Plan. When asked about why so many communities are losing ground, one of our answers is that they have a dumb strategy for today. What had worked in the past may no longer make sense. Are communities prepared to help mainstay employers shift focus to remain viable? (Are there supply chain opportunities for small businesses or landowners with the larger employers?)
- Third key is Robust Investment. We all know that businesses that do not reinvest in themselves are likely to erode their competitive advantage, lose market share and eventually fail. The same is true for communities. There should be between 5 and 10% annual reinvestment in new facilities, streets, workforce skills, and public amenities. The community should invest about 1% of its annual output in community economic development. As every farmer knows, you cannot reap what you do not plant. The same is true with economic development. There must be robust investment in a smart development game plan sustained annually over time.
(These first three keys are mutually reinforcing. Most communities have economic development budgets and grant-funded initiatives now. A Smart Game Plan for entrepreneurship attracts individuals and organizations to take Local Responsibility to put Robust Investment of money and time into integrating those priorities into other similar initiatives already underway.)
Stay tuned for Keys 4, 5 and 6 coming next time….!