By Eli Dile, International Economic Development Council
Happy Economic Development Week! We hope yours is off to a fantastic start.
This week marks IEDC’s 15th anniversary, resulting from the merger of the American Economic Development Council and the Council for Urban Economic Development. But the real purpose of Economic Development Week is to celebrate the hard-working economic developers who get up every morning and strive to make their communities better places.
We could think of no better way to mark the occasion than by hearing from those we are celebrating, so ED Now reached out with three questions: What motivates you to work in this profession? What resources have been most helpful? What advice has stayed with you through your career? We hope you enjoy the insight and wisdom shared with us.
IEDC wishes you a wonderful Economic Development Week and hopes the rest of the Year of the Economic Developer brings you prosperity and fulfillment.
What is the best professional advice you ever received?
“Work together, collaborate. As the African proverb goes, ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’” – Clark Hoskin, Norfolk County, Ontario
“Network, collaborate, and divvy up your action strategies with other community stakeholders. Know you detractors and how to deal with them. Communicate regularly with stakeholders and the community in general.” – Jim Edmonson, economic development consultant
“Leadership is getting things done through other people. Delegation allows for more projects to get done and more buy-in to occur.” – Laura Lewis Marchino, CEcD, Region 9 Economic Development District of Southwest Colorado
“Be willing to take risks, whether it’s putting in for that new job or undertaking a bold new initiative.” – Nancy Bowen, CEcD, The Ohio State University Extension
“Much of economic development is about taking risks. Always be willing to take a risk, but be sure to take an informed risk.” – Mark Barbash, Council of Development Finance Agencies
“Don’t sweat the small stuff. Always keep an eye on the big picture.” – John R. Zakian, CEcD, economic development consultant
“Don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff. ‘Do not be anxious for anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ Philippians 4:6” – Trina Zais, AICP, MPA, City of Keller, Texas
“Treat everyone you meet with respect. It’s the right thing to do, and you never know who may be your boss someday.” – Stephen Taylor, CEcD, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation
“Be curious, listen, and always show genuine interest in others.” – Robert Payne, Georgia Department of Economic Development
“Earn respect and give respect every time you interact with someone.” Brett Doney, CEcD, Great Falls Development Authority, Mont.
“Plan your day, and work your plan. Above all, keep a sense of humor.” – Jim Waddington, Kent Economic Partnership
“Time is precious. It’s fleeting. Make the most of every moment of every day.” – Scott Sigman, consultant
“Most folks have a short memory, so even if you’ve just closed a big deal, with lots of new jobs and investment, work toward closing the next one soon.” – Walt Wood, CEcD, economic development consultant
“Know your votes! When working with elected officials, it’s imperative to know where they stand on an issue or project you’re working on.” – Barbara Coffee, CEcD, EDFP, City of Henderson, Nev.
“Be your best advocate – speak up and participate.” – Seonah Kendall, CPA, City of Fort Collins, Colo.
“Work hard, play hard. Always think outside of the box and dream big! Treat others as you would want to be treated.” – Mary Lee Prior, Town of Vermillion, Alberta
What resources have been most helpful to you that you would recommend to others?
“[I am] constantly seeking information about new tools, strategies, tactics, markets, and more so that I can add more value to my clients, partners, and investors. The IEDC network has proven to be of enormous value in this regard.” – Brett Doney, CEcD, Great Falls Development Authority, Mont.
“Read everything about the economy and your community. Identify and stay ahead of trends. Be a data junky and track critical indicators.” – Jim Edmonson, economic development consultant
“Voraciously read the local, regional, and national news daily, in that order, to keep focused on issues, trends, and opportunities.” – John R. Zakian, CEcD, economic development consultant
“No matter what training is available, take advantage of it. Though you may never use it in your everyday work, it may be the common ground on which to connect with someone else. That is especially important in economic development because we work with so many different industries and people from such diverse backgrounds.” – Tedra Wilkins Cheatham, the Clean Air Campaign, Atlanta
“I am not an expert in anything, and I eventually realized I did not have to be. What I need to have is a network of folks that are better than me in a lot of areas and willing to answer an email or call when I reach out.” – Eric Voyles, TexAmericas Center
“Network as much as possible. Include partners in your planning, like your department of labor, vocational-technical schools, colleges, and major employers.” – Jim Waddington, Kent Economic Partnership, Dover, Del.
“Other economic development practitioners and mentors have been extremely important to me. I don’t worry about reinventing the wheel – just phone a friend and take best practices from other communities and map them onto yours.” – Barbara Coffee, CEcD, EDFP, City of Henderson, Nev.
“My peers, regional partners, and IEDC are the best resources. Nothing replaces experience – reach out and ask. Economic developers are the most willing to share ideas, best practices, and more.” – Seonah Kendall, CPA, City of Fort Collins, Colo.
“Find a mentor that really cares about your professional and personal development.” – Trina Zais, AICP, MPA, City of Keller, Texas
“Continuing education and networking have always been key, as well as challenging myself on a daily basis. But the most important is finding mentors throughout each stage of your career who help you to become a better person.” – Robert Payne, Georgia Department of Economic Development
“Active participation [in associations] has provided me personal learning and professional growth, networking, and camaraderie.” – Mary Lee Prior, Town of Vermillion, Alberta
“The people I have met are genuinely helpful and want to share what they know.” – Stephen Taylor, CEcD, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, London, Ky.
What motivates you to work in economic development?
“A good friend, Van Cunningham, once said to me, ‘Do you know why doing this job is so exciting?’ He paused and then said, ‘Cause we are doing God’s work.’ I thought about his comment and realized what he meant is that we’re doing good works for our neighbors. If we can help someone grow their income, we’ve helped them buy time with their family. Through our work, someone may now be able to afford to send their kids to college.” – Eric Voyles, TexAmericas Center, New Boston, Texas
“I had to leave my hometown to find a good job. I don’t want my son to have to do the same.” – Jennifer Wakefield, Orlando Economic Development Commission, Fla.
“For the future of my children and my neighbors’ children.” – Stephen Taylor, CEcD, Kentucky Highlands Investment Corporation, London, Ky.
“Making a difference in your community is seeing the smiling faces of the folks who have new (or retained) jobs in their workplaces.” – Walt Wood, CEcD, economic development consultant
“Economic development is a very noble profession – creating jobs and a better quality of life.” – Deane Foote, CEcD, economic development consultant
“It’s gratifying to watch a community grow and develop and know you had a small part in it!” – Barbara Coffee, CEcD, EDFP, City of Henderson, Nev.
“Developing sound investment strategies, seeing them come to fruition, and watching my community grow balanced and strong.” – Trina Zais, AICP, MPA, City of Keller, Texas
“I got into economic development after working in journalism. Both fields require you to be a generalist, knowing something about nearly every subject and where to get the information you need. What continues to motivate me about economic development work is you aren’t an observer or reporter, you are the boots on the ground making change happen.” – Laura Lewis Marchino, CEcD, Region Nine Economic Development District, southwest Colorado
“My community went through a major recession right before I graduated high school. Families were hit really hard. People walked away from their homes. Kids moved in with friends for their senior year so they could stay in the same school. When I had the chance to do economic development in my community, I jumped at the opportunity and haven’t regretted that choice in the twenty years I’ve been in this business.” – Gary Ballew, CEcD, Port of Pasco, Wash.
Day to day
“I’m motivated by the wise, interesting people in my community who work together to grow the economy.” – Clark Hoskin, Norfolk County, Ontario
“The people, the networking, and relationships created. I love my job!” – Mary Lee Prior, Town of Vermillion, Alberta
“Retention and expansion efforts with existing businesses. I find it fascinating to learn about local entities and how they operate.” – Jim Waddington, Kent Economic Partnership, Dover, Del.
“The exposure to innovative companies that drive our future, and the jobs and investment they create in communities throughout the state.” – Robert Payne, Georgia Department of Economic Development
“I have one of the best jobs in the city! No two days are the same, and it’s very rewarding to be able to help businesses and residents in our community connect.” – Seonah Kendall, CPA, City of Fort Collins, Colo.
“The energy and enthusiasm of my colleagues – every day is different.” – Nancy Bowen, CEcD, The Ohio State University Extension
“Making a real difference in peoples’ lives, helping to create better neighborhoods and communities, and being able to see concrete results. Another motivation is that we get to work across a wide variety of industries and issues, meeting and working with people from diverse backgrounds and geographies. I get to learn something new every day.” – Brett Doney, CEcD, Great Falls Development Authority, Mont.