Economic Development Matters

January 30, 2012

A mentor of mine once told me that people need to be reminded more than they need to be taught. Well, I’ve received a few reminders lately of why I chose a career in economic development and why I still believe that economic development matters a lot.

Last week, a small conference brought together 25 of the most respected location advisors in the world, a group that helps companies plan and make decisions about where companies build facilities and seek talented employees. Approximately 100 economic developers from around the country were also in attendance, and I was fortunate to be there. I am even more fortune to have worked with many of the location advisors over the past 16 years, and to have had the opportunity to work both as an economic development professional and as a professional location advisor. Given that I have been on both sides, this meeting was particularly fascinating for me. In my opinion, both parties share a common goal; to move the country and the world forward, to help to facilitate sustainable job growth and to change the fortunes of communities and regions by finding location solutions for their clients.

The discussions brought back memories of working on my first “project” back when the Request for Information still arrived via fax on flimsy paper. It was a lot of hard work, 20-30 pages of questions about your community, and no help from Google! I scoured our file cabinets (prehistoric databases for those younger than 30), and even went to the library to dig up critical information. The first site visit I led made me far more nervous than any sporting event I had ever participated in. I remember thinking how important it was that our community shine that day or hundreds of people could lose an opportunity to go to work in our area. I still feel that way today when a client arrives to examine the Columbus Region, and I know our team feels a great pressure to perform each week as clients visit.

What is great about the economic development profession is that there are people in nearly every community that have had that same feeling, that deeply care about bringing jobs to their corner of the planet and for their friends and neighbors. Our profession is about finding solutions and a path forward, especially in tough times. We are driven by passionate civic and company leaders that are striving to achieve their ambitious goals – and we get a ringside seat.

One Columbus Update
I want to thank our entire Central Ohio state delegation for attending a small breakfast Columbus2020 hosted last week to provide an update on our efforts. Their engagement in the Columbus Region’s efforts to retain, attract, and facilitate job creation are absolutely critical. We also had the great fortune to host U.S. Secretary of Commerce John Bryson to the Columbus Region. We toured Entrotech, a shining example of manufacturing innovation and The Ohio State University’s alignment with our manufacturing community. We also toured EWI, who wowed Secretary Bryson with their sophistication and broad range of research clientele – it is just one of the reasons companies from all over the world choose Columbus as a place to research and develop new products. A special thank you to Henry Cialone of EWI for his great tour.

Our team hosted several international clients last week and attended the German American Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Economic Forum and several international consulates. This week we will be  meeting with companies and site selection professionals in Indiana. We continue to be excited about our prospects for 2012. To comment on this post or other economic development issues please visit us at Columbus2020.

Kenny McDonald