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Including and Aligning Different Disciplines in Economic Development

Posted on by Bob Santy

Our regular readers know that CERC has been engaged in a national and global discussion about the definition of economic development. At the IEDC conference in Toronto, at the NEDA Conference in Providence, and in our discussions with clients and with towns as part of our Municipal Training, we are embracing a very broad-based definition of economic development.

Broad-based because we need to include and align different disciplines, i.e. community development, workforce development, and infrastructure development in our transformational economic development. We also want to better understand how we should implement more inclusive economic development practices. According to the World Economic Forum, inclusive economic policies seek to “capture greater synergy between economic growth and more broadly-based progress in living standards in (their) countries." In other words, outcomes of inclusive economic development should include broad based expansion of economic opportunity and prosperity in addition to jobs and investment.

What are the implications of these changes on how economic development is practiced on the ground in Connecticut? We know that economic development occurs when private and public interests coincide. Often government interests are not completely aligned with what private parties seek to do. With a broader definition of economic development, success requires private parties to work harder to gain public acceptance and approval. There is a need to make sure that parties are talking the same language.

At CERC we help public and private players better understand how to achieve successful economic development outcomes. But lately I have thought that we could be doing more to translate and facilitate meaningful dialogue between the public and private parties to economic development transactions. When we recently conducted a workshop geared to commercial brokers and local economic developers I was surprised how many were not familiar with the tools we have to assist and support their economic development projects. Going forward we will be more strategic and engaging these parties and providing the tools to achieve more successful economic development outcomes.

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