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Thread: Working with an economic development corporation: your experience

  1. #1
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Working with an economic development corporation: your experience

    I am a new director of planning, economic and community development. Part of my position is to work with a recently formed Economic Development Corporation (EDC). The EDC calls me a resource and an ex officio member. They can ask me to come or stay away from their meetings. The town gives them their primary source of funding as their start up.

    I am trying to formally outline what my role is with them, what does being a resource mean?

    I like the concept of me meeting with a potential business owner/developer and then bringing them to the EDC so they can talk to them and say stuff that I can't - as in recommendations and other schmoozing I have to be careful of...

    I don't like the us you gig they have going right now - I know it's just a time thing to let them heal from some past doings and that they need to learn to trust me through experience; however they have opened the door to ask me to come up with a formal understanding of what I do and what I do for them

    I do think the role of staff in general is:

    A. give decision makers information and data to help them make good decisions
    B. give decision makers your two cents on good planning and development practice
    C. implement and carry out the policy the decision makers have made

    So how does this apply in a corporation?

    ...what so often happens at the local level is people want you to be a leader but they don't really mean that for every time you try to lead, it's "uh, sit down" (so to speak)

    do any of you work for a municipality but also "serve" a private non-profit economic development corporation as part of your work? your advice on what is the relationship?

    thanks, let's also remember I am a little gun shy from past bad stuff so I am stepping carefully...

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Brocktoon's avatar
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    It is tough to say what your role with the EDC should be without knowing the mission and goals or the EDC. I have been on both sides of the fence on this one. IMO your first step it to figure out what the community’s goals, expectations and measurables are for the EDC. Since the community is a large source of funding and you are the liaison I would expect that the electeds and city manager will expect you to know what is going on and is the EDC being a good steward of city funds.

    If I was the executive director of the EDC my expectations for your role would be: the voice of the community at the board meeting (if elected officials are present then your voice represents staff); provide data as necessary; help arrange meetings and knock down internal city barriers that will hinder development; help during funding time to ensure the EDC is properly funded; help prospects brought in through the development process; keep me informed of decisions, policies, discussions that occur within city hall; advocate for the EDC at within the bureaucracy. Most importantly your job is to listen, understand and advise.

    Personally I never dismiss you from a meeting unless I was working with a client and it could impact their efforts to locate or expand in the community. Furthermore, I think you should expect to know the strategic direction of the organization and participate in those efforts; have an understanding of their activities and understand how the money is being spent and their efforts in ensuring financial stability of the organization.

    If ED is political in your community and you are not up to speed on the EDC activities it will reflect bad on you. I am not suggesting driving the effort from the back of the bus but you need to be informed and understand how the EDC is operating and its efforts to attract, retain and create business within its geographic area.
    "If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less" General Eric Shinseki

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Some of the things I would recommend:

    1) Funnel the EDC clients. People will often make organizations other than the EDC their first stop. Chamber of commerce and planning departments are probably the most prevalent. When somebody is in the early stages of considering a business development project, suggest they talk with the EDC, and alert the EDC to the potential project.

    2) Whether the project comes to you or the EDC, develop a practice to sit down with the developer and EDC director early - preferably before they start to draw up plans. You can get to understand what they want to do, outline what may be some of the challenges and what the plan commission will want to see from the developer, and look for work-arounds to some of the potential sticking points. The EDC can also get a better understanding of the approval process and how they may be able to assist. We have found developers to be thrilled by this approach and have seen large projects approves in one meeting, when the developer follows the recommendations.

    3) As you mentioned, provide information to the EDC. This should include an annual update of development activity in the community. Planners also generally do a better job of presenting data than do most economic developers (who market the community - go figure). Send them some nice maps and charts.
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