Tools of the Trade

March 13, 2017

“If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

A musician’s instrument, a painter’s brushes, a chef’s knives. All of these tools are integral to the success of the professional who uses them each day to practice her craft.

What instruments do economic developers use or need to practice their craft?

At a national, state, local and even a neighborhood level, programs exist that are critical to conduct economic development and to compete for investment and jobs. The ability to add value to public-private partnerships through financing, grants to catalyze further investment, and workforce training funds are critical to generating activity and building community infrastructure. These programs bridge gaps, remove obstacles and remove market inefficiencies so that private sector investment and jobs can be deployed. There are very few projects that don’t require one or more of these tools to move even the smallest initiative forward.

While under constant scrutiny as “business incentives,” the breadth of these programs and the agencies that implement them are far more important to our everyday lives than many citizens understand. There is a lot of debate and analysis about whether the programs are necessary, sufficient or if they perhaps yield unintended consequences. While communities should review the use of tools from tax credits to loan funds, it is necessary to have a full complement of functional programs that allow your area to compete for jobs and investment.

Local leaders, both urban and rural, depend on these programs to build up and repair their communities and to catalyze private sector partnerships. Ask any small business leader about the power of the small business programs that helped them to take an idea and turn it into a business. These same small businesses often grow quite large and can ultimately employ thousands of people.

As the global economy becomes even more competitive and new ways of working and forming companies are created, it is important to ask what programs will we need to keep pace and which are outdated. Are we fully leveraging what is available today? Does your local economic developer have the tools needed to nurture small businesses being created, accelerate high-growth companies, provide support for existing employers, and attract new businesses to the area? Each “bucket” requires a different toolbox!

-Kenny McDonald


One Columbus Update

This week, the One Columbus team is in Tucson for the Site Selectors Guild 2017 Annual Conference. Next week, we’ll begin an international business development mission in Europe.