“There must be consistency in direction.”
-W. Edwards Deming
I enjoy visiting the Gallup website every now and then to check in on polling numbers. Their indices for the sentiment of the country, consumer spending, real unemployment and other measures are quite fascinating.
The question I have is this: Should economic development organizations pay close attention to these numbers as they plan for their activities and expenditures?
Should activities be slowed during an impending downturn? Should plans be put on hold to wait and see what happens? Perhaps. You certainly don’t want to overinvest when there is an expected downturn in a certain sector, or spend dollars that will not likely yield a return for taxpayers and private investors. Still, others might say you should double or triple your efforts in a downturn to take advantage of the fact that others that are playing wait-and-see.
However, economic development is largely a game of consistency and requires a long view. It is critical to invest steadily during natural fluctuations in the economic cycle. When activity slows, the consistency of your efforts will build relationships and help build or rebuild confidence in the market. When activity is high, it is important to leverage opportunities for shorter term gains for those you serve.
Ultimately, while polls and indices are important and can provide interesting insight, they are only truly valuable when paired with insight gained from direct dialogue with business leaders and government finance officials. This underscores the importance of a strong business outreach program for existing industry.
It is the economic developer’s duty to prepare for the future, pay attention to trends in community sentiment, and be consistent and calm whether times are good, bad or simply uncertain.
One Columbus Update
- This week, the One Columbus team will meet with site selection consultants in Phoenix.
- Back at home, our team will attend a panel discussion by Kegler Brown, the Ohio SBDC Export Assistance Network and the Ohio Development Services Agency on Business and Educational Opportunities in Cuba.