What Does an Economic Developer Do?
We’ve ofter heard it said that economic developers only do three things:
- Business Retention & Expansion
- Business Creation
- Business Attraction
However, it’s not that simple. Economic developers are a catalyst…they are politically astute strategists who establish relationships, build networks, and generate resources to meet the needs of businesses. Their goal is to increase economic viability in their community.
Here are some of the activities economic developers engage in:
Identifying Backward Linkages
Assisting and Being Familiar with Technology Transfer Programs
Networking Existing Business
Conducting Business Visitations
Providing Businesses with Export Assistance
Attending Meetings with Stakeholders
Administering and Managing Revolving Loans
Implementing Business Recognition Programs
Conducting Targeted Industry Studies, Labor Market Surveys
Creating and Implementing Marketing Strategies
Assessing the Community and Creating a Profile
Tracking Vacant Industrial Site & Facilities Inventory
Holding Business Familiarization Tours for Potential New Businesses
This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it should give you an idea of what economic developers do.
How about the role of an economic developer?
The role of today’s economic developer evolves continuously. An economic developer is responsible for planning, designing, and implementing economic development strategies, as well as acting as a key liaison between public and private sectors and the community.
Economic developers are also instrumental in helping to leverage finances from both the public and private sectors–funding that is critical to help communities attract new businesses, facilitate enterprise development, and assist existing business with expansion and troubleshooting.
Economic developers are key facilitators in creating public-private partnerships and coordinating activities and communications between different agencies, territories, and actors. It is their job to bring the different actors to the bargaining table, gather resources, mediate and match buyers with suppliers, and facilitate business partnerships.
It is also imperative that economic developers fill in the gaps and provide assistance where markets and institutions cannot or will not meet the community’s needs. This points to another role economic developers play which is that of information provider. They offer accurate,up-to-date, and credible information to prospects interested in investing, locating, or expanding in a specific area. They also provide information on the community needed by local industries and the private and public sectors.
In addition to all of these roles, an economic developer may provide technical or trade assistance–or even make loans to area businesses. Most importantly, though, they must be keen analysts, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the local economy. They are responsible for monitoring and assessing the economy and the local business climate in order to be proactive and perform effectively.
While the role of an economic development agency is multi-faceted, like the profession, it is also continually evolving. However, keep in mind that not every organization will take on every role. The activities and services provided by each organization are dependent upon the unique needs of each community.