A Complete Guide to Strategic Planning For Economic Development

4 years ago

Strategic economic development plans are integral to achieving measurable, sustainable economic growth and quality of place. 

By putting a formal plan in place, communities can take control of their economic development, set clear and attainable economic development objectives, and design policies and programs to achieve them. Without a plan, your economic future is reactive at best. At worst, it’s in the hands of others – especially in this time of uncertainty. 

Community economic development plans are proactive, not reactive. They are designed to achieve measurable, sustainable economic goals. They should provide guidance to all levels of government and the community and help set priorities for economic development in a strategic environment. They are designed to be simple and transparent, so [that] citizens, businesses and government can identify the goals, objectives, and strategies to achieve those goals and objectives.

Defining your community’s objectives is the first step in developing a plan. Step back and look very carefully at what you want your community to become in the future. Refine your initiatives to ensure that they have the right focus and are affordable and realistic. Develop an action plan, which addresses all elements: develop leadership to guide, look over and monitor your progress. 

Now that you have identified your goals, you are ready to develop strategies to achieve them. There are several categories of strategies that communities may select from: 

  • Economic Development Strategy
  • Community Action Plan
  • Asset Enhancement Plan
  • Community Development/Transformation Plan.

A lot of thought must go into developing a committee or working group of specialists to develop the economic development plan. Involve the community in the decision process, to ensure a representative community voice. In this process, the community may find that it is far more interested in proactive economic development than long-term sustainability. Because they are interested in short-term solutions, communities may find that planning exercises are more of a wish list than a plan. It is important that your plans be owned by the community, not the development board. It’s your plan, your community and your future. Make sure it is a good one. Consider the following questions:

  • What economic development goals are identified in the community?
  • How will these goals be achieved?
  • What agendas and actions will be implemented to achieve those goals?
  • Who will be involved?
  • What is needed to realize your community’s vision and vision for the real estate?
  • Is there a long-term plan for the real estate?
  • Is there a plan for social and economic development of the community?
  • What are the financial resources?
  • Can the community structure its community development activities to be economically self-sustaining?
  • How and where will revenue be generated?

Doing these things can help protect and enhance the quality of your community’s long-term economic development opportunities, improve the appeal of buying and living in the community, and create the right conditions for attracting new high-quality residents, services, and economic development to your community. 

It’s your Community, Own it!

Strategic economic development plans foster accountability and good stewardship of community assets. 

That takes the vision, leadership, and determination to think beyond the next election and to be responsible stewards of your community. Is your community selecting the approaches that are going to work to draw others to you and keep them there? Is it clearly defining who you are and what is the vision you have for the future, and how are you going to achieve it? Is your community using its resources effectively and efficiently to achieve its objectives?

If you are an elected official, an agency director, or a residential or commercial property owner and you want your community to be vibrant, it is essential that you are involved from the beginning and are a part of the strategy and the action plan that are put in place. You need to be involved in the process and not just contribute work that is done in your office. Be proactive and involved.

  • Develop a sincere commitment to your community and your region’s economic development efforts.
  • Schedule regular meetings and share the timetable with your community, the public, and government partners.
  • Analyze your community’s outcomes and ask what can be done to improve them.
  • Communicate to the public via your publication(s), the media, and your council or agency at meetings that are open to the public to let them know about the ongoing community commitment to economic development and what their part is in achieving community goals.
  • Lead by example. Be an advocate for regionalism, and be the economic development champion for your community.

Strengthen your community’s economy. Governments can contribute to productive economic growth by providing a conducive environment for business formation and expansion. As communities thrive, private-sector development will also flourish. It’s that simple. But without that information and the economic opportunities (such as business recruitment and retention and asset management) to support the development process, the community is missing a key element.

Ideally, the business recruitment and retention programs should be coordinated at the aggregated community level. By providing a set of policies, plans, and sharing best practices, communities can initiate an effective economic development agenda for their region. Those policies and plans should focus on those policies, directed to attract and manage those new businesses and acquiring and enhancing the assets of active businesses.

Affordable housing is another area where governments can play a significant role. Affordable housing allows for the growth of a more stable economy by providing good jobs with competitive wages and benefits. Several studies have shown that communities and states that provide more affordable housing provides the additional impetus of building a stable tax base and adding the additional dollars [for community operating expenses] necessary to support the community.

The list of community assets is extensive. Property, or real estate, is at the top of many community leaders’ lists. While communities should always be looking at their assets and their uses, they can capitalize on their assets to ensure that their community continues to thrive. As part of the planning process, it is vital that the community assesses and understands the property’s condition as well as its use. 

Since the U.S. is facing a housing shortage, it is imperative that a community’s land use plan incorporates the synergies between the commercial and residential activity in the community. Building upon its assets, the community must be able to capitalize on the investments it makes in the health and wellness of its residents.

Take a community’s quality of life into consideration. Such factors as public health and safety, transportation, community amenities, culture, and access to employment are important indicators of quality of life. A community can be creative and think outside the box in determining the quality of life for its residents, be it through arts programs, recreation, or short-term and longer-term jobs for people who may need the opportunity to build a resume, enhance their skills, and gain confidence and skills.

Incorporating an economic development strategy into the community’s planning process results in a proactive, results-driven approach that helps create a great place to live, play, work, and stay.

do’s and dont’s of Strategic Planning For Economic Development

– Keep a balance between business and residential activity in the use of land

– Be clear on the value the community places upon certain assets

– Develop a community-wide vision for the future

– Avoid policies that set up competing interests and promote a level of distrust

– Plan for continual rollout of initiatives to improve and add value to the community

– Keep a focus on the factors that impact the economic strength of the community

– Plan for community economic development and a long-term commitment to metropolitan and regional growth

– Ensure that project delivery is complete

– Consider the availability of financial and other resources needed to advance the goal and make a success of the plan

– Spend time collaborating and communicating with the private sector and public entities

– Ensure that goals are achievable and measurable.

– Train the staff in leadership roles in the community

– Create a participatory planning process with the local community

– Take into account factors of affordability

There are a variety of ways that a community can use to include an economic development plan in its planning, but only if the goals are clear and know what the overall community is trying to accomplish. In analyzing the results of the economic development plan, it is important to keep in mind that a plan is a long-term structure designed to make the community attractive to new businesses and residents that are looking for an attractive place to start, grow, or relocate. 

To improve the overall economic vitality of a community, a community has to have well defined policies that promote and encourage the applicant and the community to come together to talk in order to create the economic development plan. Sure, economic success is not guaranteed, but there are a lot of stakeholders to be considered and very rarely “one size fits all.” The main objective is to make a community attractive that others are attracted to live, invest, and do business.

These instruments are quite informative, as a way to help get communities’ minds on the right track. It is very helpful to examine the following:

  • The advantages to having an economic development plan when compared to other strategies.
  • The advantages of having an economic development plan that analyzes potential economic growth.
  • The advantages to having an economic development plan that identifies that community’s significant assets.
  • The advantages of having a coordinated approach to developing an economic development plan and client lists.
  • The advantages of having economic development efforts and activities that are strategic instead of targeted.
  • The advantages of having regions that have formulated economic development plans that are consistent with regional plans.
  • The advantages of having a coordinated approach to leadership and consultation efforts in partnering with other entities in community economic development.
  • The advantages of a plan to promote employment and business location in a community.
  • The advantages of a plan that promotes economic development in a community that promotes quality of life issues.
  • The advantages of a plan that has elements of effective strategic planning in focusing on priorities.
  • The advantages of a plan that has the determination to give community officials the time to meet regularly.
  • The disadvantages of an economic development plan that does not address the four objectives of a sustainable economic development plan.
  • The disadvantages to the fact that the community is not focused on its assets.
  • The disadvantages of an economic development plan that fails to provide a strategy that considers an assortment of factors to determine what actions might be taken by and on behalf of the community.
  • The disadvantages of an economic development plan that focuses more on community asset identification.
  • The disadvantages of a lack of a community perspective in an economic development plan.
  • The disadvantages of economic development proposals that focus on individual solutions, rather than an overall strategic plan for the community.
  • The disadvantages of an economic development plan that does not involve other entities within the community.
  • The disadvantages of an economic development plan that fails to set targets for the community’s needs.

conclusion of Strategic Planning For Economic Development

The report analyzes that the community is in a strong position if it can develop strategies that integrate land use planning, economic development strategy and the development of a strategic plan to pursue specific market strategies. For example, if a community wants the community to look more like a small town, the city should get involved when creating a vision for its future. When a community indicates that they are weary of noise and the impact of crime, the city should be upfront about being concerned about crime. It’s important that the city and the county work together to increase the value of the community by building parks, increasing the number and type of businesses, and perhaps rezoning for residences to support the types of businesses that meet the needs of the community.

Include in the analysis of the community’s assets so the city can determine what kind of land use plan the community can support most effectively. There are a variety of markets from which the community should be focused. For example, employers have a strong interest in knowing that there is not too much traffic on the road as a growing number of workers will be expected to commute to work daily.

The report offers community officials some practical advice and suggests methods to earn the community’s trust. Organization that can foster engagement should discuss the plan with the community members too.

The report provides some excellent information for governments and is updated in the 10th edition of the International City and County Management Association (ICMA) Plan Analysis Guide.

To truly be successful in reviewing the plan, the community needs to come together in a cohesive way where firm, personal goal is shared by many people. A coordinated approach to crafting an economic development plan is mandatory for a community to succeed in the economic development plan. To be successful, the community needs to cultivate relationships that consider data that is gathered from a variety of sources, such as large as well as small businesses.

Economic development plans must remain flexible, and the community needs to be careful not to put the cart before the horse. The community must not become trapped into thinking that they have to be the master of their plan as well as the master of the community. There must be coordination between public sector and the private sector in the community, or else the community will not gain the support it needs to make the project a success.

Assuming that an economic development plan should be focused on identifying geographic areas for the development of infrastructure, the community must ensure that the plan is performance driven and not vision driven. The community needs to work on creating public space that can lessen the negative impact of the urban sprawl. If a community is convinced that it wants to attract crime to the area, then the focus of an economic development plan should not be on cutting riparian buffers, but rather it should be on creating a more inviting and safer location for citizens to live. Many of the assets that a community has will remain unnoticed if not identified.

There are four objectives that should be included in an economic development plan. These objectives should be foremost in the mind of community officials before an economic development plan is created. These four objectives should be addressed most of the time in any larger community.

The community has to be careful in considering that good projects have many failed projects. Of all the industries that are created, there are many that fail to survive. However, a good plan does not aim to appeal to the lowest common denominator rather it aims to seek excellence in its action.

To be successful, the community needs to keep in mind that it needs a balance between government and business. So, the partnership between the public and private sectors is vital, and it’s important that the city work as a part of this partnership.

The advantage of a city to implement an economic development plan is that it has a fast track process that enables the city to show forth its financial picture at the most valuable times. This is a benefit because it saves the community money on processing fees. This is a benefit, too, because in addition, the government is able to set up a simple loan program that will allow a community to pay online.

Having an economic development plan is very important in that it assists in a community’s passion for economic growth. The community should be willing to try different approaches in order to achieve the goals it has. The benefits of this are that the community is unified to see the road ahead for the community.

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