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A couple of years ago, I had the honor of speaking at the 20th Anniversary of a regional economic development group. This one was special to me, as my dad, Bob Ady, had done a lot of their foundational strategy work when he was head of PHH Fantus. Believe it or not, one of the leadership of that EDO still had a copy of the report that my dad did (a carbon copy, no less!) and sent it along to me.

As I read through it, what struck me the most was that the more things change, the more they stay the same. The basic principles espoused in that 1995 report are just as valid today. Here’s an example: “Competition for high quality jobs will intensify in the 21st century, and the communities that are prepared to address the needs of existing and relocating business will be most successful in capturing new investment.” That’s right: those words were written in 1995, and we’re still talking about the importance of BRE today.

But the bigger take-away is this: The most successful economic development organizations have strategic economic development plans. Period.

  • These plans allow their various stakeholders to agree upon the vision of their community or region, before a once-in-a-lifetime deal is on the table.
  • These plans let investors understand what the organization is going to do, how it’s going to do it, and how the results will be measured.
  • These plans give guidance as to what the EDO will NOT do, what strategies they will NOT pursue, and what initiatives they will NOT invest in.

There’s another major benefit of having a strategic economic development plan in place now. While our economy is no longer in the Great Recession, it’s a mixed bag. How long will it be before another business cycle hits our economy? And how are you going to maintain your funding sources, adjust your goals, and survive when you’ll be the most needed? By having a plan.

What does an ED strategic plan include? Cluster analyses, labor shed analyses, property assessments, incentives audits, SWOT analyses, cost analyses, and assets inventories are just some of the many elements that could be included. With so many options, how do you determine what is necessary – and helpful – to include in your region’s plan? Whether you are a tiny community or a region/state,  Ady Advantage can help you figure it out and then complete the research needed to move your plan forward. To learn more about how we can help you with strategic planning, please contact Janet Ady at 608-663-9218.

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