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Preparing an Economic Development
     Strategy in Ten Easy Steps     “Like a well-trained prizefighter,
Step 7 - What resources do we               Step 9 - How much does it cost?           Conclusion
have and need?           ...
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MML 10-Steps to a Economic Development Strategy


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!0-Step process to prepare an economic development strategy

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MML 10-Steps to a Economic Development Strategy

  1. 1. Preparing an Economic Development Strategy in Ten Easy Steps “Like a well-trained prizefighter, an economic development strategy by Charles Eckenstahler must identify a community’s ‘best punch.’” T he truth is, strategic economic development planning is rather simple. This article seeks to demystify Step 3 - What are our problems and opportunities? Step 5 - What do we want to be? Of the ten questions, this one is One way to answer this question the most difficult. It is most often preparation of an economic development is to complete what researchers answered by a carefully worded vision strategy, simplifying the process into call a “SWOT” analysis—a list of a statement of a community’s desired ten easy tasks. By answering simple community’s economic Strengths, future image. The phrase “Our Future questions, a group of lay people can Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Vision is for our community to be the prepare an economic development a SWOT analysis might disclose that premier regional location for business strategic plan for their community. your workforce is comprised of a high investment in 2015” is an example of a Step 1 - Who are we? concentration of skilled computer vision statement. This statement tells operated machine tool makers, or that a big story. First, it proposes that the yes, we know we are a community of the farmland designated for industrial community will be the premier location say, 5,000 people, but do we know development has no water and sewer for new business investment when how many employees we have in the and is not “shovel ready.” compared to surrounding areas. Then workforce? What jobs they do? Their it provides a means and a timeframe to ages and how much/what type of Step 4 - What are our strengths? measure success. education they have? How many are Like a well-trained prizefighter, an unemployed or underemployed? Many economic development strategy must Step 6 - How do we get there? of these questions can be answered identify the community’s “best punch.” The answer becomes a list of specific by u.S. Census data. according It might be a unique geographic location actions that either a) eliminates defined to business site locators, available affording superior logistic transportation weaknesses, or b) maximizes identified workforce is one of the top, if not amenities, or proximity to a nationally strengths. For example, the lack of a the top, criteria of any firm seeking rated university. Other times, it might “shovel ready” site can be remedied to expand or locate a new business be a young, highly educated available by investment in utilities, roads, and operation. workforce, or a recreational or small governmental approvals necessary to Step 2 - What is our economy? town residential lifestyle. have the site ready for construction immediately upon receipt of a building It is usually simple to identify the permit. major employers, such as the school district, hospitals, and city or county government. However, there is a large segment of jobs (some estimate 80 percent) provided by small businesses—and small businesses are the primary generator of new jobs. Data from the u.S. Census, u.S. Department of Commerce and your state employment agency can be useful in providing a narrative and quantified description of the number and type of jobs in the community. Such indicators are important for performance measurement and therefore, knowing the type of jobs that the community would like to attract. 26 THE REVIEW May/JunE 2009
  2. 2. Step 7 - What resources do we Step 9 - How much does it cost? Conclusion have and need? undertaking an economic development Preparing an economic development Every community has resources. The program costs money, typically more strategic plan is not an overly complex key is identifying and involving them in than any single organization has within process. There are numerous developing the economic development their budget. answering this question resources for communities to draw strategic plan. Prepare a chart listing establishes a budget for each work from, including regional planning the specific work task, the person or task and identifies who is to provide organizations, MSu Extension, and organization responsible, the due date, the funding for the task, fostering private consultants. While use of and the funding source. In our example, collaborative implementation of the outside assistance brings technical a work task to install infrastructure for strategic plan. skills and greater experience to the a “shovel ready” site may be assigned process, community representatives to the city public works department, and Step 10 - How do we know are still required to answer all ten obtaining necessary planning/zoning when we get there? questions, develop the vision and work approvals would be a task for the city useful milestones to measure success tasks, and accept responsibilities to planning department. should be included as part of the complete each work assignment. strategic plan. Measurement tools and Step 8 - Who is responsible? a reporting process will “keep the left “This 10 step plan can be easily The key to successful implementation hand knowing what the right hand is requires gaining commitments from doing” which is important to avoid implemented by a municipality specific individuals to complete work duplication and focusing efforts in the for economic development. The tasks. This “buy-in” is critical to same direction. ‘SWOT’ analysis has been used success. In our model, the public by organizations with great works director and city planner would success.” be named as “responsible parties” and charged with the duty to complete one –Don Beavers, Manager, or more specific work tasks. Village of Caro ECOnOMIC DEVELOPMEnT STRaTEGIC PLan Work Tasks Work Task Description Budget Funding Responsible Completion Progress Source Party Date Measurement Tool Charles Eckenstahler serves on the faculty of the Michigan association of Realtors and Land use Leadership academy, and is a program trainer for the Michigan association of Planning. you may reach him at or by phone at 219-861-2077. May/JunE 2009 THE REVIEW 27