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Thread: Best economic development benchmarks

  1. #1
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    Best economic development benchmarks

    Any of you economic development types have a good way to measure progress in developing/attracting businesses to your area (other than assessment splits with residential)?

    We are having such a huge market crunch with our residential assessments, that it is throwing off all of our targets. Some ideas I've had are looking at number of people commuting to Edmonton, and then make targets to lower the percentage; look at building permit # targets; try to increase the current floor area of non-residential growth on a per capita basis, etc.

    Of course, these are all things that I'm coming up with off the top of my head, and this is not my area of expertise. So if anyone can point me to some good Economic Development Plans (preferably for a bedroom community) that have measurable goals, I would greatly appreciate it!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Rem's avatar
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    Are you able to get employment statistics by location? We use that as a measure over here, though there is a lag. We have some forward indicators available from a local research instutute (we part fund them so they programs that meet our needs) based around job advertisements and business confidence surveys.

    You can see what they do at this link. Follow the tabs to "Regional Monitoring Program", then "Hunter Region Economic Indicators", then see the free download of the latest indicator report. You can see by looking around the website there is a myriad of research and monitoring reports available.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Mud Princess's avatar
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    I'm not familiar with the types of economic data you have available in Canada, but I assume there must be some resource that would give you the total number of business establishments and employment by city, county, and/or MSA. Some possible ED benchmarks include the number of net new businesses; number of square feet of vacant commercial space that has been leased; and the number and/or value of commercial and industrial building permits... though these measure very different things.

    I'd suggest looking at a CEDS document (CEDS = Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy) for a community or region similar to yours. A CEDS is typically funded by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, and one of the requirements is to include the benchmarks by which progress will be evaluated. If you Google the term "CEDS," you should be able to find numerous examples.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I like what you are doing. It is not just meaningless statistics like "unemployment rate" or " capital investment." You have actually ties your measures to community goals, like reducing the need for residents to commute to employment. I would suggest that you go back to your comprehensive plan and look at similar policy statements. Use them to craft economic development measures.
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  5. #5
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    I have found that most communities fail to accurately develop/use benchmarks for two reasons.

    First, they don't have a clear sense of their goals and objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? Jobs? What type? What pay? What skill levels? Investment? Expanded tax revenue? Construction activity? Some of the actions/policies needed to accomplish any of these goals may not support, or actually work against, another of these goals. First figure out what you are trying to accomplish.

    Second, most communities fall into the trap of benchmarks with an absolute measure instead of one that is relative to assessing real progress. For example, a nearby community decided they needed to create 5000 jobs in five years in very specific industries and with very specific wage and skill criteria. That's very nice - lots of specificity to make everyone feel it was very scientific and would "attack" the unemployment problem.

    But why "5000" jobs? Would this solve the unemployment problem? If the unemployment rate dropped was it due to our actions? If the unemployment rate increased, in spite of our job creation, was it a failure? Nobody will know because the "absolute" goal of 5000 was done in a vacuum - no linkage to other indices. For example, what was your state unemployment ranking prior to your efforts and how did that ranking change? Did your unemployment rate drop when every one elses increased or stayed static? Did you just match the growth of the region or nation? You must tie benchmarks to other indices in a broader region, or they do little to help you assess your progress

  6. #6
    Cyburbian nerudite's avatar
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    CeeVee, I totally agree. I'm going to be raising a lot of those questions with Council in a few weeks. But because they told me to meet a certain unattainable benchmark, meaning one that we can't accurately measure or rely on, they will be asking me for examples of where certain benchmarks are working well to test whether our economic development is achieving what it is setting out to do.

    Unfortunately, our ED guys pulled 80/20 assessment split out of the air and really have no idea about what we really need. I think I'm going to try to look at commuting % and % of working population employed within city limits as some indicators. But really, I'm just asking if there are any other good ones that work for bedroom communities.

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