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.
Last week I was in Toronto for the IEDC Annual Conference. Toronto is a great city, and being in Canada gave us the opportunity to hear from many economic development professionals who do not usually travel to the US for conferences.
On Sunday, I participated in a panel on the future of Economic Development Organizations over the next decade.
I am taking the relative quiet of mid-August to reflect on CERC and its value proposition. Actually, we started a process back in April to help us answer that question. The CERC board and the staff all went through an exercise of defining our value proposition. A staff subcommittee has been refining that work, and this week we will meet with a board committee to take that work to the next step. Our goal is to gain clarity in how we and our partners define CERC’s value and be able to measure how we are accomplishing our priority desired outcomes.
In September I will be going to Toronto for the IEDC annual conference. While there, I will participate in a Learning Lab discussing “EDOs in the Next Decade.” I spent some time this week trying to define what I might bring to the table. Following are some of the ideas, and I welcome input as I finalize my remarks.
Let me start by stating the obvious: Our state’s budget process is broken. We live in a time of perpetual fiscal stress, and have been unable to deal with structural issues that face the state. Our existing budget framework is just not up to the job. We need to scrap our balkanized budget process and adopt a new approach that sets top policy goals and funds them within available revenues.
This week the Travelers tournament is front and center at the Tournament Players Club in Cromwell. I just did a little research, and the PGA Tour includes 86 international players (from outside the US) from 24 countries. Maybe we don’t perceive this event as featuring Connecticut globally, but it does. Yesterday a group of Connecticut economic developers gathered at the TPC for a Connecticut Economic Development Association event. The topic was Connecticut’s global positioning. Megan Torrey, the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council did a great presentation featuring the topic of Connecticut‘s positioning in the world.
On May 10, I spoke at the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce Real estate event. The audience is primarily commercial brokers, bankers, economic developers and local officials. This gave me the opportunity to tie together some of my thoughts about development patterns and the state’s fiscal crisis, particularly as it impacts towns.
I attended the Regional Plan Association Annual Assembly in New York last week. This event always renews my enthusiasm for the contributions that economic developers can make to their communities and regions. Almost 1,000 people attended to hear some of the world’s leading experts on a tremendous variety of issues. The Morning Plenary, titled Building Big for Less, concentrated on how regions across the globe are affording transportation infrastructure. This became the underlying theme of the day – the U.S. must invest in transportation infrastructure in order to grow the metro New York economy.
Tuesday’s Hartford Courant included an article titled, "$50 million for Rail Upgrade." The subject was Connecticut state bonding approval to continue later phases of the New Haven to Springfield Rail improvements. It covers design for new stations in North Haven, Enfield, West Hartford, and Newington. It ties directly to economic development priorities: Wallingford has created a tax incentive zone around the new station site, and other towns are creating transit oriented development plans. Next winter the upgrades will lead to increased rides along the line that will enhance the commuter rail opportunities. Eventually that will include 25 round-trips a day.
Recently I attended a meeting of the Connecticut Committee of the Regional Plan Association where we discussed their new report: Under Water: How Sea Level Rise Threatens the Tri-State Region. The report separates out the more commonly discussed issue of frequency and strength of storms (storm surge) from the less damaging (for most) but permanent effects of sea level rise.