3 keys to economic development success

May 14, 2021

As the nation celebrates economic development week, the communities with the most to celebrate have likely founded their efforts on three principles:

  1. Public-private partnerships
  2. Regional cooperation
  3. Adequate funding and staffing

Here are some highlights from our research about these keys for successful economic development in our economic strategy report for Central Wyoming College.

Public-private partnerships

The most successful economic development organizations enjoy broad support from both the public and private sector. This balance is important, because economic developers play the unique role of advocating for the needs of business and industry while protecting public investment.

The National Association for Development Organizations, in its presentation “Regional Approaches to Rural Economic Development”, stresses regional leadership from a combination of public, private and nonprofit collaboration. It describes a paradigm in economic development where a collaboration between several partners values the creative power of smaller organizations and individuals and tailors solutions to meet local needs.

Regional cooperation

Companies care less about political boundaries and more about market opportunities.

We found two examples of pooled resources to generate business development – in northeast North Dakota and South Central Kansas.

Collaboration is a core value of the Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Corporation (EDC), celebrating 30 years working in Northeast North Dakota. The grandforks.org website states: “We work together with partners to best serve our stakeholders.” The EDC serves two counties and a regional population of about 100,000 with six staff.

Harvey County Economic Development Corporation is a county-wide economic development organization serving 7 communities in a county with a population of 34,846. The EDC has two staff, 19 board members and 7 ex-officio board members.  Harvey County EDC is a member of a collaborative regional initiative, Blueprint for Regional Growth for South Central Kansas (found on the website of the Greater Wichita Partnership).

The Blueprint for Regional Growth is a collective effort of 28 organizations – including economic development, chamber of commerce, colleges and universities, and workforce centers. The partnership focuses on serving industry clusters through workforce development, access to financing, infrastructure and logistics, good governance and quality of life improvements. Economic growth comes from new enterprises, expansion of existing businesses, and attracting companies in each cluster.

Adequate funding and staffing

There is not often a shortage of ideas for economic development. It just takes time and money to translate vision into reality.

It is more difficult for a volunteer organization to achieve consistent results than organizations with full-time staff. Hiring staff is one step, and then investing in the professional development of staff is equally important.

Without a strong economic development organization, a community will not thrive. 

A sound economic development effort will produce a return on investment by generating jobs and expanding the tax base. Implement these 3 keys to make progress toward your vision.

Lisa Johnson
Lisa is an enterprising idea person who likes to share with others to help in their business and personal success. She was raised on cattle ranches in Wyoming and Colorado. She holds a B.S. in Communications from Eastern New Mexico University and is a graduate of the Economic Development Institute. Her economic development career has spanned 20+ years and three states, with leadership roles at the county, regional and state level. She founded Orbis to enjoy the advantage of working on unique consulting on projects while being actively involved on her husband’s family ranch at LaGrange, Wyoming. Lisa is equally as comfortable in the corporate board room or in the saddle.