Saturday, July 18, 2009

Optimism Abounds on a New Economic Development Strategy

Published: July 17, 2009

ATLANTA — When the construction cranes have halted, business has slipped into a coma and growth has slowed to the speed of Interstate 75 at rush hour, what is a Chamber of Commerce to do?

In Atlanta, the answer is tinged with optimism: develop a strategy for the end of the recession.

For the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, the region’s future lies not so much in broad buzzword sectors like bioscience or technology, but in bite-size niches within those categories.

Atlanta could become a center for pet pharmacology, digitized medical records and video games — or so says a study released Friday for the chamber’s New Economy Task Force.

“There is no such thing as a technology industry,” said Alan Colberg, a managing director at Bain & Company consultants and the author of the study. “You have to say, ‘We’re going to build wireless telecom.’ Successful cities have gone to a focused area. The industries are more fragmented than they’ve ever been.”

Such a plan, of course, is predicated on the notion that the recession will end. But it also involves the somewhat instructive effort of trying to predict what the economy will look like in recovery, and how cities will compete more for less growth.

“It’s going to be this move from bad economy to next economy,” said Mick Fleming, the president of American Chamber of Commerce Executives. “You can pick your industry, whether it’s retail or banking or computers — it’s all going to be different.”

Other cities are also adjusting their economic development strategies. “Our focus is now on entrepreneurship and innovation as opposed to industry attraction in the old-line sectors,” said Jeff Kaczmarek, president of the Economic Development Corporation of Kansas City, Mo. “In times of economic distress, it’s small business and entrepreneurs who lead the way out of these recessionary periods.” More here.

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