In life, we talk about doors opening and closing to illustrate opportunities found and lost. In business, we like to keep the doors open as opposed to closed. An open door can translate into customers, profits, and growth.
To assist in keeping a business door open or opening a new door altogether, an economic developer can smooth the way and act as a facilitator. This could very well be the single word that best describes economic development.
The week of May 9-15 is National Economic Development Week. This week-long recognition was created by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) to promote awareness and showcase economic development work in communities worldwide.
The textbook definition of economic development is to help improve a community's economic well-being through job creation and retention and provide a stable tax base. It is important to note that market-driven forces, innovation, and individuals will generate growth, expansion, and wealth creation, whereby a community can benefit. Economic developers can serve as facilitators to make that happen and pave the way.
Advocating for business-friendly policies can go a long way in supporting a vibrant economy. Economic developers work with local governments and agencies to guide policy adoption that is reasonable, competitive, and smart. Examples of this can be fee structures, zoning, and tax credits.
Not only are policies an important consideration to help businesses get off the ground or expand, but it is the process in which businesses navigate to get from point A to B in the system. A clear, consistent, and expeditious process greatly benefits individuals or entities interacting with local or state departments. Speed is paramount because, as the saying goes, time is money. In some cases, a fast-tracked process can enhance efficient outcomes.
Economic development also falls into the category of serving as a guide. Connecting businesses to resources or programs like grants or workforce training is critical to the overall picture of success. An operator may need access to financing, help with a business plan, or talent pool information, and economic developers can help with these connections. In many communities, economic development organizations have also been assisting with COVID-19 relief and recovery efforts.
This leads to partnerships. To ensure successful business support measures, economic development professionals cast a wide net in the collaborative realm. Building relationships at the local, state and federal level are vital to serving businesses effectively. Partnerships are often established with community stakeholders, industry, utilities, educational institutions, non-profits, realtors, bankers, and transportation providers. Collaborating with local governments, Small Business Development Centers, Workforce Centers, the Office of Economic Development and International Trade, Department of Local Affairs, USDA Rural Development, and the Economic Development Administration can all open doors and connect business owners to helpful resources.
Like so many other economic development organizations across Colorado, Elbert County Economic Development strives to support a thriving community. There is an ongoing effort to examine and improve the process and policies that make sense and support businesses. Utilizing technology effectively is another area of opportunity currently being explored. A new economic prosperity portal highlighting the county's assets, business resources, and interactive map overlays will launch this year on the county website. When looking down the road, it is clear that infrastructure expansion and improvement are fundamental components of future business opportunities and related job creation. It will require creative strategies and partnerships from the public and private sectors to realize infrastructure improvements in the county.
When you open the economic development door, it is easy to see that the work is broad and interconnected. The linkages span many aspects of a community, from schools, housing, health care, and parks. The partnerships go beyond county lines and consist of a continually expanding network of individuals, organizations, and agencies. All to facilitate and encourage private sector investment, increase profits and incomes, maintain essential county service levels, share resources, and smooth the path for economic vitality.