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What Elected Officials And Concerned Citizens Should Know About Economic Development

Is there a preferred skill set and knowledge base for elected officials, business leaders and even concerned citizens when it comes to economic development in a region or community? The National League of Cities’ Center for Research & Innovation thinks so. They’ve published a guide which summarizes the types of things that make for effective leadership in this important part of governance.

The League’s published guide starts with the recommendation to understand local economic strengths and weaknesses, since comprehending what makes the community’s economy work will help shape the vision and economic development strategy. Also, how does the community fit into the broader region’s economy? Like cogs in a machine we are often part of a larger system. Thirdly, officials can facilitate consensus building in developing the community’s economic development vision and goals. Then, what’s the strategy to attain the goals, i.e. specific activities and budget allocation aimed at a more strategic approach.

Fifth on the list is developing connections between the economic development policies and other policies/programs/statutes in the community – for example transportation or housing. How do these fit together? Similarly, what is the overall regulatory environment? Does it favor “timely, reliable and transparent resolution of issues facing businesses?”

Number seven addresses the question of “who are the partners”? Who should be involved in these processes? More broadly, what are the specific needs of the business community and how can they be met? Ninth on the list is the development of a “clear, accurate and compelling message” to get support from the electorate and to clearly shape the direction that leaders wish to go. Finally, who is the staff charged with getting the job done? There must be a strong relationship between elected officials and staff.

These are good ideas for any community and we should ensure that our leadership is following this advice.

– Jennifer Maher, Chairwoman, the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce

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