We at the National League of Cities are producing a guide for local elected officials based on a list of the “10 Things Local Elected Officials Should Know about Economic Development…and if you don’t you should ask.” This list is sort of call to arms about having informed local elected officials who can support and promote thoughtful economic development policies. To be sure, we are not trying to turn local elected officials into professional economic developers, but to give them the tools and knowledge to be effective leaders and to build mutually-supportive relationships with their economic development staff. We started this conversation with economic development officials at IEDC’s recent conferences and would welcome your input as well. Have additions, subtractions, or comments about our list? Let us know! The “10 Things Local Elected Officials Should Know about Economic Development…and if you don’t you should ask”:
Informed and Strategic Leader
1. Your local economic strengths and weaknesses, including:
- What are the major sources of jobs in my town?
- What available sources of worker training are available in my city, like community colleges, and are they connected to the needs to my local business community?
- What is the high school graduation rate? Drop-out rate?
- Local unemployment?
- Am I up to speed on changing economic conditions?
- Are goals and vision based on a “fad” or the realities of my community?
- Is the economic development vision in sync with longer-term community values?
- What are the tangible outcomes of our vision?
- How can I be part of a “continuum” of leadership for economic development? (i.e. balancing longer-term nature of economic development with short-term political concerns)
- What does/could my community offer to enhance the region’s overall economic strength and environment?
- What regional organizations or partnerships exist? Are we involved?
5. Other city activities that support or impede economic development, including:
- How do transportation, housing, land use and other policies impact economic development? How do these all work together?
- Are we establishing the right conditions to create jobs?
- How long does the permitting process take?
- Does the budget support the expectations I have of my economic development team?
- Do we offer tax incentives, and under what circumstances?
- Who are the key city staff from various departments and outside organizations who work on these issues?
- Do I talk to them?
- What do/can they bring to the table to help achieve our economic development goals?
- Are there communications barriers between stakeholders and what can I do to break them down?
8. The needs of your local business community, including:
- How does my business community perceive local government?
- How does my city monitor and respond to the needs of our local business community?
- How do we celebrate and highlight the achievements of local businesses?
- Am I in regular communication with my economic development staff?
- Do I trust my staff and do they trust me?
- Do I empower my staff to make decisions?
- What type of leader do they need me to be in order to be most effective?
- What information do I need from them in order to communicate to residents how we are addressing their needs?
- How do I articulate our economic vision to my citizens?
- Are all city staff and officials on the same page with the goals and are we delivering a consistent message/brand?