Six Tips for Succeeding in the Economic Development Industry

November 10, 2014

economic development young pro webinar

Last month, DCI’s Susan Brake moderated a webinar for young economic development professionals with tips on how they could map out their career in the industry. The 45-minute webinar gave listeners a chance to hear from two of the industry’s well-respected young professionals and previous 40 under 40 winners – Christopher Chung, CEO of Missouri Partnership and Jennifer Owens, President of Lakeshore Advantage.

Here are six tips from Chris and Jennifer on how to stay in the know on key trends in economic development and to rise up in the ranks.

1. Never stop learning. Jennifer recommends that ED pros continually study, network and research, including reading white papers, which can be a beneficial source of information.  To ensure you’re staying on top of the industry, she suggests setting aside monthly or weekly time for professional development activities including networking, attending conferences and webinars, and simply reading.

2. Know the buzzwords. According to Chris these include site selection, reshoring and work ready.

3. Understand the role of incentives. If you’ve been following the news, you know that incentives have become a controversial topic for our industry. More than half of our webinar participants agreed, however, that even though they aren’t the biggest fans of incentives, they understand the role incentives play in economic development. Jennifer described incentives as an aspect of economic development that should be the icing on the cake, not the only reason for a site selection decision. As soon as you fully understand the business of incentives and can be candid in conversation, you’ll be comfortable discussing your region’s structure.

4. Be a risk taker with a plan. Having an idea for a new program is a great way to get noticed and make a difference within your organization. That being said, Chris stressed that you must have a “blueprint” – at least mentally – clearly organizing your ideas and stating what problem your program will solve. When it comes time to present your idea, Jennifer reminds us to own the room, have self-confidence and know the data to back up your ideas.

5. Your product should be your community, not your organization. As we know, the competition in economic development is fierce with many EDOs promoting the same benefits and support as others. Instead of focusing on what makes your organization great, focus on the strength of your community’s business climate as your key differentiator. The support your organization provides is then an added benefit to companies looking to expand or relocate.

6. Make sure companies are ‘buying in’ mentally. Just as an economic developer hopes the community can speak to their work, company support and testaments can get regional corporations to recognize your EDO as an asset.  Jennifer suggests that an EDO show value in their work by making case studies relatable for businesses of all sizes, from large corporations to small entrepreneurial start-ups.

Want to learn more about being a young professional in economic development? Stay tuned for a follow-up blog focusing on professional development and career advancement.

Hanna Porterfield

Written by Hanna Porterfield

Hanna Porterfield is a Senior Account Executive in the Economic Development Division at DCI. With a passion for places since interning at the Michigan EDC (her home state), she now services clients including Choose New Jersey, the Netherlands Foreign Investment Agency, Brownsville Economic Development Council and more.

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