25 January Encouraging Local Businesses to Grow in Place is KEY to Economic Development January 25, 2017 By Laura Pavlus General economic development, retension, workforce development 0 Read Full Column Here - by Lisa Riggs Carrier Corp. and Ford Motor Co. recently made national headlines after deciding to retain jobs and channel investment into existing U.S. facilities instead of building new plants outside the country. These two high-profile announcements include so many story-lines: the importance of the manufacturing sector, offshoring pressures, the use of financial incentives, union labor, politics and the overall U.S. business environment. Yet perhaps the most important takeaway for communities is that these two deals reinforce the reality that notable economic activity — capital investment and jobs — comes from existing businesses staying and expanding. Additionally, the impact of losing existing employers and the associated potential growth hurts. Since the 1970s, however, most communities across the U.S. have understood economic development to mean business recruitment involving direct marketing to attract a company or operation to a town or region. And if a successful project is landed, these types of deals typically get big headlines. Over these past few decades, far more focus as well as community and public dollars have been spent chasing the next big deal, while day in and day out, local businesses are making major decisions to grow their workforce or reinvest in their facilities or equipment with little fanfare. The impact on a community’s psyche is also interesting to observe. A new business choosing to locate in a community garners energy and enthusiasm, providing community leaders with a sense of validation that their city, county or region was selected. Arguably, communities should feel that same sense of accomplishment when a local service firm or manufacturing plant expands its presence. The reason is that these are the businesses that are already involved in local activities, have roots in the community and support local charitable endeavors. Their decision to hire a new employee — whether it’s one or 100 — deepens their commitment to the community. In economic development language, this is called business retention and expansion. And increasingly, communities are recognizing that the priority has to be on working to retain and grow our existing businesses. This approach is common sense and no different than most private-sector businesses that intrinsically understand that retaining customers is easier than securing new ones. A strong business retention and expansion strategy is hard work and involves a significant investment of time. It starts by connecting with CEOs and senior business leaders and communicating that their business is valued and appreciated in the marketplace. It requires asking questions and providing solutions to major issues such as workforce development, access to goods and services, transportation infrastructure, and municipal coordination and uncovering other factors that may be impacting their ability to be successful. It requires considerable relationship building at many levels, not through a singular, urgent transaction. Announcements like the Ford and Carrier deal end up being oversimplified to fit a news headline. It is unknown how much dialogue and effort occurred between the local and the state leadership and the companies in advance of what came across as overnight decisions. Even the strongest business retention efforts don’t guarantee all companies, jobs and investment are retained. But communities are increasingly focusing deliberate attention toward keeping and growing the existing base as a priority over recruiting new businesses. Related Officials Look to Spring Park Project as Key Piece in Economic Development GREEN COVE SPRINGS | The natural spring that is key to the city’s historic past could help lock in its future, say Green Cove Springs leaders and economic development officials projecting new business and industry could come into the community just as the mineral water now flows through Spring Park into the adjacent St. Johns River. Leaders Welcome State's Economic Development Chief GREEN COVE SPRINGS – With a focus on bringing more high-paying jobs to Clay County, economic development leaders, business leaders, elected officials and others recently hosted a county tour for the head of Enterprise Florida Inc. Jacksonville Competing in the Top of the Pack for Small Business Jacksonville placed 30th out of more than 100 major metropolitan areas in an American City Business Journals study of small business vitality across America. Few Details on Economic Development Fund Both chambers of the Florida Legislature approved funding Friday for the newly created Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, a deal that followed months of debate among top Republicans, capped off by a three-day special legislative session. That $85 million fund for Gov. Rick Scott will change the way the state attracts business. New 5-Year Economic Development Plan Unveiled A new five-year strategic plan charting Clay County’s economic development future recommends county officials maximize the First Coast Expressway construction, create an entrepreneurial ecosystem for area millennials and to brand Clay County with recognizable signage on its borders. Economic Development Plan Gets More Ironing Out Armed with a new strategic plan for economic development completed, Bill Garrison, president of the Clay County Economic Development Corp., recently met with county official to divvy up tasks involved with bringing the plan to fruition. 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