Why economic development is important for any city

With a million and one things already on many city staff’s plates, it may be tempting to move ‘economic development’ to the bottom of your list. But with economic activity picking back up, and many businesses looking to expand and tap in to new labour markets, now is the perfect time for any city to build and put into action an economic development plan.

What is economic development?

Let’s start with the basics – what is economic development. While there are a few ways you could look at it, at the heart of it is the goal of attracting and growing businesses, creating and retaining jobs, and ultimately, making your community a better place to live.

Why is economic development important?

Economic development is an important element to any thriving (and growing!) city. While the first is obvious -- new job opportunities for local residents, there are many important benefits that your city can realize that will have lasting impacts. New companies often need to tap into the local supply chain, giving other local businesses a boost to their bottom line. This in turn can offer economic inclusion, connecting businesses and neigbourhood based entrepreneurs to the broader economy.

And more importantly, there is a trickledown effect throughout your town’s entire economy as both businesses and workers begin spending their profits in your city.

How do I get started?

If your town or city doesn’t have any economic development plans in place, it may be daunting to figure out where to start. But don’t worry, starting can be simple and you can grow and adapt your plans as you go.

To start, it’s best to set both short and long-term goals for your economic development plan. Short term goals will look at near-term metrics and actions that your city can start acting on right away. Longer-term goals will focus on broader economic goals. But this step will help you determine if any tactics you’re putting in place – like a new website, tax breaks or marketing campaigns – are actually paying off.

The next step is to determine how you’re going to showcase your city. To start, an economic development website is often the first and most practical step. Here you can showcase your city, the potential workforce, available properties and how a new (or existing business) can tap in to your city for help. It’s important here to take the time and get this step right. Having all the important information available on your website will help businesses make an informed decision, and having a website that is vibrant and showcases everything your city has to offer could make (or break!) a businesses decision when opening up show.

Next, you’ll want to start outreach. Trade missions, social campaigns and even hiring specialize staff members that can work with businesses, developers and other levels of government should all be on the table. It may be worthwhile to start by focusing on key sectors or cluster of sectors that would benefit most by expanding operations in your city. This will allow you to focus your resources where you’re likely to get the most value.

And finally – test, learn and adapt. There is no ‘set it and forget it’ with an economic development plan. Any action plan will need to be adjusted as your city grows and changes. But by having the right foundation in place, you’ll be able to pivot and adapt and ensure long-term success for your economic development plan.

Want help getting started with an economic development website?

With 25 years of experience, we know what will work – and what won’t! Get in touch with us today, or see how we’ve helped other cities with their economic development sites.

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