Who should I talk to? When I started in this business in 1985 the second day on my job as a Chamber and ED exec in a town of 5000 a realtor came in to visit with me. Let’s just say he was past retirement age. He was kind and very smart. He said when he started in the business he was told if he wanted to find out who the leaders are in a community it was very simple. Break the community out into categories: Religious, Financial, Real Estate, Utilities, Small Business, Main Street, Transportation, Manufacturing and Volunteers. Write these on a piece of paper and then ask people who they felt were the leaders in the community under each of these categories. So, as a kid right out of college I followed his advice. That list gave me about thirty different names from about forty people that I asked. It turned out to be an accurate list. So that is my advice on how to figure out whom to visit with locally. But in the world we live in today make sure you get to know your utility representative who may not live in your community. Also, drive to the state economic development group and get to know the folks in that office. Those are your two best out of town allies.
One interesting thing about being and economic development professional is that you are typically the only person in town that does what you do. Now you may have a staff and that is helpful, but even then it is good to branch out. I used to meet with all the economic development professionals that I considered neighbors. These were folks within an hour’s drive of my community. I feel it is important to develop a relationship with these folks as they could be your allies on lots of issues. There will be a rare occasion that you may be competing with one another, but in reality as long as one of you gets the location, then you both win. Now since I started in the profession regionalism has grown dramatically so many of you that are reading this (okay maybe only one person is reading this) it will sound strange that you would not work with your neighboring community. But even today we have regional groups that are clients and some of the communities in the region still don’t get along because the football teams play each other every year. I’m sorry folks but your community leaders still have this mentality than your community will probably see very little growth and will likely become a ghost town in the next one hundred years! Please work closely with your communities in your region. You will all support and lift each other up. Tip for the Day: Get out of the office. Every day plan on meeting with at least one person who will make your job easier. This is very tough to do. But, in this high tech age it is still about relationships. Get out and make friends. Because if you are doing your job really well you can make a few enemies. Next: Who should be on my board?Next Previous