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Moore to the Point: Operating principles for excellent economic development

Moore to the Point: Operating principles for excellent economic development

Well-run economic development organizations (EDOs) are integral to a community’s success.  They accelerate economic growth by generating new jobs, capital investment and more.  While development strategies vary from one community to another, high-performing EDOs operate with distinct internal principles that align leadership, funding and culture to maximize impact.

Here are five operating principles that I’ve seen employed at top-performing EDOs throughout my career:

  1. Disrupt yourself or be disrupted. Change is coming, so direct your own new path forward, painful as that may be — or have your path determined by others.  Economic development is being disrupted whether EDOs like it or not.  So, change or be changed.
  2. Create a compelling vision and mission that is core to everyday operations.  Vision and mission statements can be a waste of time.  They can also be foundational to driving organizational performance higher.  Leaders recognize the importance of such “North Star” credos and embed them in every meeting and decision to ensure short-term operations remain in line with the organization’s top priorities and very reasons for being.
  3. Set bold stretch goals for your organization and commit to them internally and externally.  Top-performing organizations set stretch goals and establish accountability to achieve them.  It’s scary to do so and requires strong leadership.  But without it, performance remains suboptimal while competing communities drive forward faster.
  4. Balance near-term wins with long-term stretch goals.  To sustain community support while striving for long-term goals, EDOs must generate short-term wins that demonstrate progress and maintain community support.  Striking a balance is key.  
  5. Always prioritize community needs over the organization’s.  This may sound obvious but the drive for self-perpetuation is strong in EDOs and sometimes these priorities get upside down.  This often occurs when existing funding sources or leadership personas are misaligned with needed changes for the community’s sake and the status quo wins. 

Economic development is a highly competitive industry.  Only the very best EDO’s are willing to hold themselves to a higher standard and do whatever it takes to drive greater impact.  They do this not because it’s easy but because their communities deserve it.  

– John Moore is a principal with Momenteum Strategies, an Upstate-based consulting firm specializing in helping communities and their economic development organizations build thriving, impactful innovation ecosystems.

Moore to the Point: Operating principles for excellent economic development