Toward a new economic development narrative

February 22, 2018

In January, I assumed the role of 2018 chairman of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the leading association for economic development professionals worldwide. In preparation for my term as chair, I thought long and hard about the current state of economic development practice and how economic developers could do a better job of communicating why what we do matters.

The timing here in Florida couldn’t be better for organizations like the Tampa Hillsborough EDC to step out from behind the curtain and educate people about the value our work brings to their communities. This legislative session, local economic development and tourism organizations are under attack from two bills, HB 3 and SB 1714, that would make it as difficult, time-consuming, and expensive as possible for us to compete for and win the kind of projects that have transformed Tampa Bay’s economy in the past decade.

When speaking with members of our legislative delegation, it became obvious to us that there was an alarming lack of knowledge about how economic development organizations here are structured and funded, what they do to attract and retain jobs and capital investment.

Clearly, one of our top priorities going forward has to be more frequent communications with our local elected officials about the success of public-private partnerships like the Tampa Hillsborough EDC. The efforts of the EDC and our partners have yielded thousands of new higher-wage jobs and generated millions in capital investment for their districts. When you factor in the number of induced and indirect jobs these projects bring, the ripple effect creates prosperity for a wide variety of their constituents.

So our legislators want to derail that success and make it much easier for competitors like Texas and Georgia to discover our strategies and spread the word among site selectors and corporate executives that Florida is closed for business?

How does this make any sense?

In the coming months, the Tampa Hillsborough EDC, the Florida Economic Development Council, and IEDC will be rolling out videos, articles, collateral materials and other tools that will do a better job of explaining the role our profession plays in producing and attracting talent, reducing income inequality, and building sustainable prosperity in our communities.

We’re creating communication tools that will help our Investors and regional stakeholders better understand what’s drawing companies and talent to Tampa Bay, how we can help local businesses in their network to expand, and how they can become more skilled ambassadors for the region.

We’ll directly address those who are critical about the way economic development operates in Florida, and separate fact from fiction when it comes to things like financial incentives and why deals need to be kept private until the ink is dry.

I look forward to having these conversations with you this year and invite your questions and insights.

We’ve come a long way as a region in the past decade, but still have far to go. We must remember that we’re all working toward the same goal of creating a brighter economic future for generations to come in Tampa Bay.