Written By: Greg Bedalov, Choose DuPage President & CEO
It’s a tried and true saying used from the board room to the class room to the football field and beyond. And it works for economic development agencies as well, especially during uncertain and challenging economic times. Working cooperatively amongst cities, counties and even states has proven time and time again to be an effective tool in growing the economy.
After all, what’s good for your neighbor’s house is more often than not good for your house. The same can be said for a community, a county and maybe even a state when it comes to business re-location, expansion and retention. The flip side of this belief is obvious.
How can Economic Development professionals work together?
With some signs of renewed but tempered economic growth and expansion, competition amongst municipalities and counties and especially states is greater than ever before. Retail sales tax dollars, new jobs and new construction are coveted by all involved. Competition is a good thing. That being said; how can economic development professionals, working in a very competitive environment, work together to support regional economic development initiatives without losing sight of their own organizations goals and objectives?
Economic development professionals must communicate with each other on a regular basis. They must share ideas, visions, challenges, strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing that a particular business might not be a perfect fit for location “a”, doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be an even better fit for location “b”, even if location “b” is outside the geographic realm of location “a”. Moreover, that business might have economic upside for both locations from a job multiplier, spin-off business and construction standpoint.
The sharing of available resources, infrastructure, access to capital and a whole list of other items is incredibly important to the site selectors working with businesses on location decisions. One town or one county’s ability to provide information on their neighbor is usually a good thing in the mind of the decision makers, as long as the information is accurate. Each location option will likely have several positive attributes in common. Other attributes unique to one location vs. another is information that will be uncovered in the site selection process. Having that information available and openly sharing it generally expedites the decision making process and normally works to the benefit of all involved.
There is a heightened emphasis these days on regionalism in the economic development field. Job creation from businesses currently outside the region that are looking to grow within the region is preferred to playing musical chairs within the region. Foreign investment and new growth are where it’s at. It is critical that local and county economic development agencies work collaboratively with state and federal agencies to uncover additional opportunities for economic wins.
Economic development agencies must put forth creative effort to showcase the benefits of their town, county, state and region. As business mobility grows, the planet shrinks. Competition between neighboring towns, counties and states is being rapidly replaced by competition amongst countries. Resources must be deployed effectively and efficiently to reach a broader market to communicate a region’s attributes. They are surely even more ways to effectively enhance economic development. By starting from a framework or cooperation, the goals for all seem more achievable.