Inspirations and Reminders

October 12, 2015

Man maintains his balance, poise and sense of security only as he is moving forward.
-Maxwell Maltz

The International Economic Development Council held its annual conference last week in Anchorage, Alaska. Anchorage provided an inspirational backdrop with no shortage of economic development storylines, such as the balance between the environment and growth, and the perils of becoming dependent on a single industry.

The IEDC annual meeting is always a time of reflection for me. This year I was reminded of three things that I will carry back to our team and our region this week.

First, the profession continues to evolve, but slowly. There are great young people involved in economic development, but not enough. The economy is moving more rapidly and so are the professionals that try to shape it, but not without tension. The bottom line is that, like many industries, we are under pressure to find better, more efficient and scalable ways to help our communities reach their potential.

Second, the difference between U.S. economic development organizations and professionals around the world is narrowing. Practices within the United States are being used around the world by developing areas, and best practices in Europe and Asia are coming the United States, particularly those aimed at aiding companies in their efforts to grow internationally.

Third, the fundamentals still, and always, matter. Professionals and organizations that are quick to adapt to new models and technologies should not do so at the expense of their stakeholders and can’t stray from their primary goals. While we must keep pace and push the envelope to stretch our communities by thinking about what is possible, we must add value and deliver positive results.

On a final note, I am always inspired by the work and dedication of economic development leaders. This year, several native leaders in Alaska reminded us of the importance of the values so many of our communities were built upon. Their respect for their traditions and their ambitions to provide a prosperous future for their people served as a great reminder that the economic development mission is far more important than any one individual or group alone.

Kenny McDonald