February 6, 2023

The keys to brand success are self-definition, transparency, authenticity, and accountability.” 
-Simon Mainwaring

As polls suggest, your opinion of your local economy depends on where you sit. While unemployment is historically low, inflation and borrowing rates are higher than they have been in nearly a generation, and we are only beginning to understand the impact of the rather radical changes in everything to local commuting patterns to reformatted global supply chains. In times like this, it is important to find reliable data sets in which to understand things locally and to determine strategies to adapt and grow. Your local and state economic development organizations might be a great place to start.

Are you a local leader that cares about the health of your economy? If so, you should want to know which industries/companies are expanding in your local area and which industries/companies are considering your market for future expansion. Those two inquiries are more important than any real-time performance metric in this very volatile market, and the answers may be more nuanced than prior to 2020.

Which parts of your regional economy are expanding and why? Are your primary employers expanding, contracting, or holding serve? Of those that are expanding, do you have the physical product (appropriate and competitively priced buildings and sites) and perhaps more importantly, the quantity and quality of workforce to serve their needs?

Are you losing to other markets or is the whole industry down? Are you winning consistently and if so, why? How competitive are the businesses versus the competitive set as you look forward? Are some industries in predictable decline and do you have key employers that will be impacted directly?

Are companies considering locating in your community from out of state or from international markets? What are the primary reasons they are considering your market? Where are they coming from?  Who are you competing with and why? Does the data indicate a trend or are there unique circumstances driving these decisions far beyond your control?

Each city, county, region, and state have this information in various forms. I encourage all economic development organizations to speak to the questions stated above, to take feedback, and to enlist the support of the stakeholders to address these opportunities. These conversations yield results in much the same way that a business must address the health of their customer base. The most diverse communities will weather the storms better, and those that undertake this debate and adjust with speed and agility will win more than they lose.

Have a great week, lift each other up, and let’s move forward together!

– Kenny McDonald