Elected officials can help lead economic development efforts in their communities by being informed about economic development goals and plans, the local business environment, and increasing the awareness of the strategic vision for their communities.
Here are the top 10 things every local elected official should know about economic development to be effective:
#1 The Economic Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Community
The unemployment rate, population growth, land use, attitudes about business, workforce training opportunities, housing availability, and other components all factor into the local economy and how attractive your community is to new businesses. By knowing the strengths and weaknesses in your community, you can work to build on the assets and mitigate the weaknesses. Learning about the economic profile of your community is the first step to working towards a realistic vision and strategy for economic development.
#2 How Your Community Fits in the Broader Regional Economy
Taking a regional approach to economic development may attract more businesses and encourage growth in the area. You’ll be better prepared to cooperate and work with other communities in your area to attract industries with a regional approach if you understand how your community fits into the regional economy. What benefits will your community derive from a regional approach? What assets does your community offer to a region? What defines your broader economic region?
#3 The Vision and Goals for Economic Development in Your Community
If your community has a clear set of goals and vision for economic development, you should familiarize yourself with them. Knowing what these are and being able to clearly communicate them are important in building consensus in the community on how to reach these goals.
#4 How Your Community Plans to Achieve These Goals
Once the goals have been defined for your community, the community will also need to define actions that need to be taken to support these goals. Some of these activities may include the acquisition of land, adjusting the permitting process, making job training available, and more. You will need adequate staffing and a budget to manage these activities as well as a way to evaluate these efforts and their outcomes.
#5 How Existing Policies Impact Economic Development
Do you know how your community’s policies may affect economic development goals? Policies that affect housing, job training, quality-of-life factors, and more can impact economic development goals. Reviewing these policies and their impacts are an important first step.
#6 The Regulatory Environment
By being aware of the regulatory environment in your community, you can help ensure that processes and policies are not only transparent, clear, efficient, and effective, but also work towards the economic development goals and vision set forth by your community.
#7 Local Economic Development Stakeholders and Partners
Get to know the businesses, organizations, institutions, and others that contribute to economic development in your community. These can include universities, city staff, business owners, chambers of commerce and others. For each project, consider the resources, skills, and expertise each group can bring to a partnership. By getting know each stakeholder, you can facilitate communication, build consensus, and work together to promote economic development goals.
#8 The Needs of the Local Business Community
Small businesses generally make up a large portion of local economies. By reaching out to existing local businesses and opening lines of communication, you can find ways to support these businesses and determine what they need from local government in order to thrive. This can help guide policies and programs that support these businesses.
#9 Your Community’s Economic Development Message
You can share this message through speeches, interviews, and other tools to help further the economic development goals of your community. By reinforcing a clear, concise economic development message for your city through these efforts, you will help reinforce the confidence of your stakeholders and strengthen the identity of your community.
#10 Staff Involved in Economic Development Efforts
City staff will have up-to-date information and data related to economic development as well as expertise and contacts. Getting to know the staff will help your to more effectively communicate about the business environment in your community and better support local and regional economic development goals. The better your relationship with this personnel, the more access you have to necessary data and where to find it.
This article is adapted from the National League of Cities Center f or Research and Innovation’s publication, “The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development: 10 Things You Should Know.” For more details including tips and strategies, read the full 36-page document here.