Local Leaders Gather in Manhattan Beach, Calif., to Learn Effective Economic Development Strategies

by J. Katie McConnell

Elected officials and city staff from across the country gathered recently in Manhattan Beach, Calif., to learn from experts and thought leaders about how they can better support economic development in their communities.

The seminar kicked off with a presentation by Anatalio Ubalde, CEO of GIS Planning, who stressed that, for economic development, a city's online presence matters more than ever. Economic development no longer begins when a company or a site selector reaches out to a community. Today, site selection, especially the early stages, is happening online. If a community doesn't have the correct information online in an accessible and user-friendly format, they are out of the running for new sources of growth and jobs before they even know there is a race.

Participants also heard from CEOs from local, national and international companies, including Michael Greenberg, Co-Founder and President of Sketchers; Russ Lesser, President and CEO of Body Glove International; Chad Beasley, General Manager of Dealer.com; Sue Chen, Founder and CEO of NOVA Medical Products; Mike Simms, Managing Partner of the Simms Restaurant Group and Mike Zislis, CEO of the Zislis Group.

These business leaders recounted the positives and negatives they've encountered with cities and city government. On the positive side, all had a strong connection to place. They started their businesses in places that matched their company's mission and target audience and where they lived or wanted to live. They felt passionately about their communities and felt that it was important to be active corporate citizens. At the same time, they stressed the important role that local officials play in ensuring a business friendly environment. Activities such as visiting local businesses to express support and providing permitting and regulatory processes that are reasonable mattered to the panel of CEOs.

The elected officials rounded out the seminar with a panel on small business development. The group discussed the range of needs facing small businesses and what cities and local officials can do to help. This discussion included a presentation on NLC's new publication Supporting Entrepreneurs and Small Business: A Tool Kit for Local Leaders, programs offered by the Small Businesses Administration (SBA) and common challenges with small business financing.

In addition to the formal content, participants engaged in peer learning discussions on issues that were affecting their communities back home and also participated in two mobile tours to businesses in and around Manhattan Beach. These tours and discussions explored strategies to bring people back downtown, overcome negative stereotypes, encourage mixed-use development and increase density.

Details: To learn more about NLC's economic development program, please contact J. Katie McConnell at mcconnell@nlc.org or (202) 626-3131.