Quick follow up: The role of an economic developer

Just a quick follow up to my last post because I can already hear the response of some: “Economic developers shouldn’t be in the business of real estate development competing with the private sector”. How many times have I heard this – or a variant of it. “We aren’t in the business of workforce development.” “It’s not our job to fix the problem at the airport.” “That’s not our responsibility”.

Well, what is the responsibility of an economic developer? To publish a brochure, attend a few golf tournaments, counsel a few small businesses and then complain that economic development is not happening in the community because of someone else?

Economic developers need to be in the business of economic development. What are the barriers to economic development in this community and how do we get beyond them. If going into the local hospital and performing brain surgery will lead to successful economic development, I say do it (although my professional advice would be to go and recruit a qualified brain surgeon).

At some point, economic development became about putting in time. Punching the clock. Attending the trade show. Writing the annual report. Hosting the golf tourny.

The best economic development organizations are the ones that can perceive what is holding up economic development and then catalyzing solutions. Obviously, the idea is to leverage existing community assets as much as you can but if they are not getting it done -get in there and do it.