Reflecting Back, Looking Ahead
by Christiana McFarland
Many of those involved in economic development at the local level have demonstrated an incredible ability to not only adjust to the tumultuous economic conditions of the past few years, but to think outside the box and seize new opportunities.
The Economic Development program at NLC explores, shares and connects city leaders with these various paths to economic development "success." By examining economic development in a local context, local leaders and economic development officials can enrich their capacity to affect economic change.
That is, what tools do local governments currently have to support job creation and business growth? What are the policy and governance implications of particular approaches to economic development? How can local leaders rethink the work they do and the partners they engage to advance the economic development goals of the community?
By viewing these questions through the lens of global competitiveness, business development and entrepreneurship, we've noticed some interesting trends and roles for cities, including:
·Focusing on existing and homegrown businesses, particularly improving communications with the business community and reexamining how municipal regulations and processes help or hinder business and how they can best meet local business needs. While clear regulations and open channels of communication appear to be the "low hanging fruit" policy choices for local governments, in actuality the process is a much more complex undertaking;
·Using foreign direct investment strategies as a tool to spur economic growth, particularly in smaller and medium-sized communities that may not instinctively be on the radar of international investors;
·Leveraging the internet and social media to achieve economic development goals and to build connections to international companies;
·Supporting small business trade opportunities by tapping local and regional service providers who have expertise, industry networks and access to the business community;
·Leveraging political leadership to elevate the legitimacy of immigrant entrepreneurs and small businesses in the work of local government and to improve trust between immigrant businesses and government; and
·Partnering with higher education, including community colleges, to attract and support international students. According to the Association of International Educators, international students attending U.S. colleges and universities contributed $18.78 billion to the U.S. economy during the 2009-2010 academic year.