Friday, December 04, 2015

A Trend for 2016

Our response to Janet Ady's article on complexity being at the forefront of economic development trends in 2016....

There is no doubt that economic development is becoming more complex due to the factors you describe and more.  This reflects an increasingly complex world we live in.  I think a more significant trend is convergence. 

By that I mean that more and more, social services, community services and other community organizations are claiming a stake in the economic development playing field.  Economic developers used to be considered the sole authority and leader in community growth efforts.  The field was defined mostly as business attraction and retention activities.  Now, however, we are required to be less narrowly focused on those activities and more concerned with total community systems management.  At the same time - and due to so many new entrants in the ED space - we are being forced to define our roles in the system more narrowly.  We are becoming one of many "place managers"  in a community who are simultaneously working to improve the place.

Place management requires a coordinated, area-based, multi-stakeholder approach to improving locations, by harnessing the skills, experiences and resources of those in the private, public and voluntary sectors.  It requires the economic developer to form partnerships with the different stakeholders who are concerned about or engaged with the place. Developing such partnerships takes time and leadership.

Other place managers in our little community alone include all levels of government, main street organizations, chambers of commerce, business associations, mental health agencies, veterans groups, employment agencies, social services agencies such as the United Way, schools and training facilities, colleges and universities, regional ED intermediaries, community foundations, tourism managers, property managers, municipal planners and science park managers. Also, many companies anchored in our place including leading employers, property developers, media companies, energy companies, construction firms and shopping centers.

Increasingly, the places often referred to today as the most successful are seen as the result of skillful place management. The implications for economic developers is profound.  It requires reaching out to other place managers to incorporate their activities into your own, to define more fully your organization's role in place management and to be more proactive in leading change.  It also provides an opportunity to position the EDO as a leader in the emerging place management movement or risk being marginalized as leaders from the other place management entities step in to to fill the void.  

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