What the Heck is “Economic Development”?

What the heck is “economic development”?

Economic Development. What does that look like? What does that mean? I have worked in Economic Development officially for 3 months. However, I have really worked in economic development my whole life. You probably have too, you just maybe didn’t think of it that way. There are as many definitions of economic development as there are theories on how to carry it out. The one that I have come to embrace is:

Definition: (of community economic development). “Actions taken by an organization to improve the economic situation of local residents (income and assets) and local businesses (profitability and growth); and enhance the community’s quality of life as a whole (appearance, safety, gathering places, and sense of positive momentum)”
(Temali, Mihailo. The Community Economic Development Handbook. St. Paul: Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 2002.)

This definition is simple enough to understand and yet broad enough to encompass all the things that make economic development vital to a community. How have I worked in economic development my whole life? I worked in my early career for Richland Bank, lending money for people to buy cars, homes (assets, quality of life) connected businesses to commercial lenders to purchase equipment, expand their buildings, thus adding jobs and production capacity (profitability and growth). I then went on to selling real estate, both residential and commercial properties that brought in new workforce to our area, helped businesses to expand or relocate, and helped people acquire their first and often largest asset. Along the way I have served my community by participating in community boards and organizations from Richland Young Professionals, Richland Community Development Group, Richland County Foundation, to serving on the United Way Allocation committee and others. Through all of these I was working toward my community’s quality of life as a whole which I am just a little bit passionate about (heavy sarcasm). So when I had the opportunity to work on economic development in Shelby, Plymouth, and northern Richland County, I couldn’t wait to jump in. The key to a strong community lies within the definition above. Healthy residents, healthy local businesses, and a safe, appealing place people want to gather in that is moving in a positive direction.

Economic Development doesn’t always look like smoke stacks and new industrial businesses. It’s often more subtle than that, though I would argue, also of great importance. Equipping our existing businesses with the latest information available on the Industrial Internet of Things, finding scale up funding to open new revenue streams for a thriving local business, uniting local educators with employers to develop programming that fills job gaps, place-making so that employees want to live and work in our neck of the woods. There are so many positive things happening in Shelby and Plymouth! The momentum is on our side and there are as many passionate and generous people here per capita than arguably any other place this side of the Mississippi. I mean, what other community do you know of that has a brand new, state of the art, fire station built and donated to the city? It doesn’t get more passionate or generous than that! When a community is ready to invest in itself, they pave the way for outside investment. Shelby and northern Richland County have shown they are ready to move forward with an eye to their rich history. Get ready to see some excitement and enthusiasm from the north, because we are taking action to improve the economic situation of local residents and local businesses to enhance quality of life as a whole.