There are many challenges to the economic developer in achieving measurable success.
Economic development is an imprecise science: what is required, what will deliver results and how they can be measured varies with context, place maturity of the local economy. And, of course, opportunity. There is rarely one project that alone achieves the success; it is by having a shared vision and agreed strategy that we can leverage opportunity and assets to activate a number of levers at once to implement the strategy and realize the vision.
It is also not the sole work of any one person. Whilst it is necessary to have persons or organisations dedicated to economic development activities, it is very much a team sport. A region has to collectively want to grow, innovate and change, manage its resources and skill its people, facilitate new business entrants. It has to be part of the culture of a place that exciting new things are supported, and new investors are welcomed into the community and helped understand what makes the community special – and valuable to their enterprise.
While the world is evolving and the economy transforming, so must the economic developer adapt and address the challenges that this accelerated change brings to the community, the “gatekeepers” of comparative advantage. Heroing community culture and heritage, taking care to induct new entrants into regional brand values and sustainability priorities of the wider community requires the economic developer to understand and respect these first, navigate them at times and communicate the core values as part of the regional proposition.
Whilst the indicators of success are measured as investment and jobs, the outcomes are much broader. Without jobs a community will decline. Without culture, a community will decline. Without community, culture and jobs, the value of investments will decline. Economic development strategies should be integrated strategies, if they are to deliver over the long term. And just like the businesses we work with, the economic developer must be agile, innovative and responsive.