“Professional is not a label you give yourself – it’s a description you hope others will apply to you.”
Each May, we set aside a week to celebrate our profession of economic development. The International Economic Development Council (IEDC), an organization that I am fortunate enough to serve on the board of and also serve as Chairman for 2020, leads this effort. Organizations across the United States use this week to raise awareness for the critical importance of the daily work of leading, translating between private sector ambitions and public sector responsibilities, and helping job creators to grow, employ people and move our economy forward.
This year began with its challenges. An economy that was growing, but not without its issues; there were growing gaps in wealth and opportunity in our nation’s cities, a stubborn skills gap exaggerated further by record low unemployment, issues such the opioid crisis, and an ability to automate jobs and job functions. There was growing concern for our retailers and automotive industries, which were undergoing significant changes in consumer behaviors. Another year of challenges, but all in all, they seemed very manageable and with some big opportunities for growth and job creation.
As with every other profession, our world changed abruptly just over 40 days ago. The challenges from the beginning of the year are a distant memory. That said, the economic development community did what it always does. We responded and sprang into action to assist companies, make sense of all the noise, translate an onslaught of new programs and mandates, and above all, serve our communities. This particular crisis has brought all areas of our profession together. Community developers, small business finance professionals, corporate recruiters and urban and rural advocates have come together, perhaps like never before.
There is no need to go into the details or depths of economic numbers for the economic development professionals in your community. They are on the front lines, helping frustrated business owners, suffering citizens, and trying to move any lever possible to lift their neighborhood, city or state. I am always proud to say that this is my chosen profession, but the past 40 days have made me more excited than ever to work with those who also have made economic development their life’s work. Kudos to all of our partners – local, state, national and international – who work to improve economic well-being.