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Description: The Mahaska Community development team comprised of the Mahaska Community Development Group, Oskaloosa Area Chamber & Development Group, Mahaska Ag & Rural Development, and Main Street Oskaloosa are seeking an Executive Director of Community Development. The Executive Director will be responsible for leading the team in defining a data-driven strategic plan, and ensuring that…

SSG is honored to once again conduct a search for the successful economic development organization, Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber.  If you are looking for an exciting position that will provide meaningful opportunity to help a region grow, this is your job!  For more information check out the job on our jobs page.  Please…

“Gather ’round people Wherever you roam And admit that the waters  Around you have grown And accept it that soon You’ll be drenched to the bone If your time to you Is worth savin’  Then you better start swimmin’ Or you’ll sink like a stone For the times they are a-changin’”  Funny how songwriters write…

Day 142: My Brackets Are Shot. There’s an Economic Development Lesson Here: I am a graduate of Iowa State University. Yesterday their loss killed my brackets as I am a homer and had them playing Kentucky in the Championship game. My Iowa State Cyclones lost because they went into their game as a 3 seed…

NWID has been a SSG client for over 10 years. SSG provides an ongoing array of organizational, branding, marketing and research services to serve the 6 county regional marketing partnership. An aspect of the branding and marketing services is continued development of the Northwest Iowa: Beyond Expectation brand identity through the development of a multi-faceted…

Black Hills Energy in Iowa and Nebraska wanted to be able to offer research to their communities.  They were looking for economic impact analysis, demographic and workforce data.  SSG provided them with a yearly contract that allows them to get information to their communities in a timely manner.  But, it is not always just a…

Smart Solutions Group was pleased to assist Decatur in their search for a new President. Congratulations to Ryan! Click here to learn more.  Smart Solutions Group enjoys helping organizations with their staff searches.  Here’s how we conduct economic development job searches.

The Night Before a Prospect Visit ‘Twas the night before a Prospect Visit, when all through the town Not a person was stirring, not even a city councilperson’s gown. The incentives were all written with care, In hopes that a business soon would be there. The city leaders were nestled all snug in their beds,…

SSG will present their services to the KCP&L Local Partners.  KCP&L, serves the Kansas City Metro and areas in Missouri in and Kansas.  SSG has developed several useful services that KCP&L felt should be presented to their local community economic development organization.  SSG will present information about our Skills Ready Suite, EDashboard, Strategic Planning, and…

When Ameren wanted to do some research on their service area they asked SSG to assist in gathering and presenting pertinent information about their service area.  Ameren serves a big share of Illinois and Missouri.  They are reviewing their growth areas and trying to identify where there future resources should be spent to better prepare…

Warren County Economic Development Corp had decided to proceed with a new website.  A part of the website was to include economic indicators of Warren County.  They turned to us and our EDashboard product.     We encourage our clients to measure local data.  Everyone can get the broad demographic data, but no one has easy access…

Smart Solutions Group is completing a nationwide search to fill the opening of President/CEO for the Economic Development Corporation of Decatur and Macon County.   For more details, click here to see the job description.

We are pleased to announce that NGAGE has hired a new Executive Director.  Smart Solutions Group is proud to have played a role in helping the organization find the right candidates to interview.  It was our second time to complete a search for NGAGE.  Smart Solutions Group understands economic development and the importance of finding…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 9: Competitive Skilled Workforce Analysis How does your workforce stack up against the regions you regularly compete against for an economic development project? When comparing community and regional workforces, Smart Solutions Group conducts a competitive analysis for a cluster based on a variety of workforce factors. To give you…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 8: Example of a Target Cluster Profile Based on our site selection experiences and inputs from other site consultants, Smart Solutions Group has developed a Skills Ready Profile. The Profile is a marketing document that provides information on the availability of skilled labor and the costs of labor in…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 7: What Workforce Information Do Site Consultants and Businesses Executives Want? According to Area Development’s 27th Annual Survey of Business Executives and the 9th Annual Survey of Site Selection Consultants the Cost of Labor and the Availability of Skilled Labor ranked as two of the top three factors in…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 6: Strategic Roadmap for Workforce Development   Business executives and site consultants not only want to know if you now have the skilled labor they need but they also want to know that the skilled labor will be there in the long-term. The Strategic Roadmap is a comprehensive and…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 5: Strategies for Reducing Skilled Worker Shortages There are three general areas for reducing Skilled Worker Shortages in a region: (1) Increase the skills of workers that reside in the labor market; (2) Reduce the out-migration of skilled workers; and (3) Increase In-Migration of Skilled Workers. There are many…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 4: An Example of Skilled Worker Shortages To show how Smart Solutions Group estimates Skilled Workers Shortages, we will use an actual example for a multi-county region. One of the target industry clusters for this region is Advanced Manufacturing. The following is a description of the process we used…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 3: Measuring Skilled Worker Shortages To measure Skilled Worker Shortages by occupation, we need to determine the demand for workers and the potential supply of new workers. To determine demand, you need a projection of the growth in the number of workers over the next five to ten years….

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 2: Skill Gaps and Skilled Worker Shortages In 2013 there were numerous reports and articles on Skill Gaps and Skilled Worker Shortages in the U.S. Many of the reports and articles state employers today are having difficulty finding workers with the skills the job requires and in the future…

Workforce Development for Economic Developers Part 1: Differences between Workforce Development and Economic Development Workforce Development is a growing area of interest by economic developers because businesses are reporting a shortage of skilled workers. Smart Solutions Group will be authoring a series of blogs on this topic to show how economic developers can provide the…

Congratulations to our newest regional group that is using the powerful www.evisthrive.com!  Can’t wait to see where this community is a year from now with building their entrepreneurial efforts!   Click here to see Ignite Quad Cities in the news.

Day 140:  What are the key steps to selling?  If you have read my earlier posts you know we want you to look at your community as a product.  As a product, selling your community is really not any different that selling software.  But, I will grant you it can be a little harder.  The…

The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance has asked Smart Solutions Group to assist them in a search for a very important position in their organization. DIRECTOR OF BUSINESS RETENTION The Greater Cedar Valley Alliance & Chamber seeks candidates passionate and skilled in helping businesses become more successful in the Cedar Valley economic area to become our…

Executive Director of Economic Development NGage (Gage Area Growth Enterprise)  Job Scope The Executive Director for Gage Area Growth Enterprise (NGage) shall be a full time, paid professional staff position. The Executive Director is hired and supervised by the NGage Board of Directors. Job Summary NGage is governed by a 12 member Board of Directors…

Day 139:  Can I prospect on my own?  Sure you can.  But it does take time.  There are firms out there that can provide full service recruiting.  I know of some, but don’t want to leave anyone out, so will not list them.  These firms will find your targets; contact the businesses;  attend the trade…

Day 138:  How do I prospect for companies?  Everything you read is that prospecting is passé in the economic development world.  It is a tough business and takes a lot of resources.  But there is a relatively simple formula:  Identify the skills of your labor force; research the wages; then look at the wages of…

Day 137:  How do I create an app?  To my knowledge, no one has created software that helps you create apps.  But I would guess there may be something out there.  But I do know they are a little more complex than creating a website.   So, the first thing you will need to do is…

Day 136:  Should our community have an app?  Well since we create apps, the answer is yes!  Seriously, an app is not for everyone.  We have two off the shelf apps that you can check out at www.edisplayapp.com and www.edashboardapp.com .  Today, I will focus on the EDisplay app.  This app is designed to show…

Day 135:  What are the keys to a good marketing plan?  I am not trying to be cute, but the answer may not be what you expect….  Execution is the key to a good marketing plan.  Most of our clients are in Greater America (rural) so they are many times a one or two person…

Day 134:  What am I thankful for?  As I write this post tomorrow will be Thanksgiving.  So, I felt obligated to let the world know what I am thankful for.  First, I am thankful for my wife of 28 years.  We have been through things that I hope most never have to endure.  I am…

Day 133:  How important are web analytics.  Or, maybe the better question is what do you do with the analytics you have.  The best reason to have analytics is to monitor the effectiveness of your marketing programs and website.  Everything you do should cause the business to go to your website, or gasp, pick up…

Day 132: Why is the media important in my community?  While you may think there is an obvious answer, not all communities are blessed with community minded media.  Over the years there have been a lot of consolidations in the newspaper and radio industry.  The internet has also made a huge dent on ad sales. …

Day 131:  Dashboards:  I have heard some say dashboards are trendy.  I don’t know why they would say that other than maybe they don’t want to be measured to make sure they are doing their jobs.  Sorry.  We like dashboards.  We even developed a product called EDashboard.  It is an app but can also be…

Day 130: Where do I tell my story?  Social media is always a great idea.  I have touched on that on Days 7, 8, 9, 52, 84, 85, 94, 110 .  So certainly take advantage of all the social media avenues.  But success stories such as an existing business expansion should be told in your…

Day 129:  How do I tell my story?  As referenced in the post, economic development needs to do a much better job telling our stories.  The funny thing is I have seen several clients get in some sort of trouble when they tell their stories.  The City or some organization takes issue when your organization…

Day 128:  Is economic development dead?  I have been reading articles and opinions this year that keep suggesting economic development organizations are becoming obsolete or that they are doing the wrong things.  It is an interesting thought.  I will have to say that our executive search work is getting harder.  We do have to work…

Day 127:  Help is on the way!  As I have stated a few times before, you are typically the only person in your community that does what you do.  So, you have to rely on others to help you get the job done.  In the economic development community, there seems to be some resistance to…

Day 126:  How do I organize these start-ups?  Here is a shameless plug for our entrepreneurial eco-system called Evisthrive, www.evisthrive.com  There are other systems out there but this is probably one of the few that is affordable, comprehensive and sustainable.  It builds a system for you to reach the start-ups and offer them useful tools. …

Day 125:  How do I find the start-ups?  No matter the size of your community it can be hard to identify the start-ups.  But there are several ways.  First, is you need to find one.  Typically that one start-up knows of other start-ups in the community and they can help you.  The search becomes organic…

Day 124:  How do I find my experts?  I have written several similar posts on this topic.  But now I am talking about finding experts, not community leaders.  However, they could be both.  But start up businesses need several different experts.  Most don’t even know what they need.  Just this past week, I was talking…

Day 123:  What can I offer start-ups?  It’s really very simple.  Offer start-ups your support.  Be able to help them find the resources they need faster.  It goes back to knowing all your key players.  A successful business can access the right people.  It’s all about connecting.  This includes sources of money and technical assistance. …

Day 122:  What is this entrepreneur thing?   In my neck of the woods communities seem to struggle to figure out how to help start-up businesses.  For some reason start-ups just don’t seem to be treated as sexy.  I think economic development and chamber of commerce organizations should focus 90% of their time helping existing business…

Day 121:  21 Ways to Refocus.  This will be a short post as I am very busy this week.  But I ran across a nice piece put out by Inc. Magazine.  With the economy we have been dealing with for several years I know many economic development and chamber organizations are struggling to decide what…

Day 120:  When should economic development be public?  A couple of weeks ago a judge in Nebraska ruled that all of the records including emails and financial information should be available to the public when public dollars are used.  Now I know in my home state of Iowa the rules are written that when a…

Day 119:  Are you a trusted partner?  Today I went to a state sponsored session about existing business.  There was a panel made up of some local economic developers and one company.  The company spoke about a recent expansion that they had gone through.  While he was speaking he talked about always looking for trusted…

Day 118:  Why shovel ready sites?  In the past ten years the concept of certified sites has picked up steam.  Several states have certified site programs.  Some of these programs are massive while other states just require minimum data.  I guess it doesn’t matter much how detailed the program is in my mind.  Since we…

Day 117:  When do you know you need to move on?  Being a chamber or economic development exec is a rewarding career.  Sometimes it is hard to explain to the average citizen or ten year old what we do.  But when you have been around a community for a few years it is rewarding to…

Day 116:  Trick or Treat.  Obviously this post is being written on Halloween.  What’s Halloween have to do with economic development?  Nothing.  I am trying to be clever.  But, maybe there is a correlation.  Let’s say your house is a community.  Let’s say a business looking for a location is a “beggar”.  Let’s call the…

Day 115:  How does my community stand out?  I’m going to throw out some numbers that are pure assumptions on my part.  I did no research to back them up.  (Too much to do this week)  But let’s say there are 600,000 cities, towns, etc in the world.  I think there are about 27,000 places…

Day 114:  Have you talked to your local businesses lately?  Obviously by the number of posts I write about this topic I feel it is very important.  So, while this post may not have anything earth shattering to share, I hope it is a reminder to contact your businesses NOW!  As you know your success…

Day 113:  Public or Private?  Whether a state economic development should be public or private seems to be a hot topic in our profession right now.  Ed Burghard wrote in one of his posts about the recent privatization of the North Carolina Economic Development Department.  http://strengtheningbrandamerica.com/blog/2013/09/is-privatizing-economic-development-in-nc-a-smart-move/  I also ran across a report from Good Jobs…

Availability and Cost of Skilled Labor Area Development’s latest survey of corporate executives ranks Availability of Skilled Labor and Labor Costs as two of the top three factors in site selection. Site Selection Magazine’s latest annual survey of site selection consultants ranks the #1 item that they want to see on an economic development organization…

Day 112: How do I raise more money?  On Day 13 I discussed this topic.  We suggest you hire a firm to raise the money for you.  Convergent Non Profit Solutions does a great job.  But let’s say you have hired them and they have raised the money.  Will this be the only time you…

Day 111: How’s your money holding up?  Smart Solutions Group spends a lot of time with smaller economic development organizations.  They tend to not have very much money to spend beyond what they pay the staff.  Does this sound like your organization?  I am perplexed why organizations accept the problem of not enough money as…

Day 110:  Can I communicate too much?   This will be a short post.  No.  ……  All right, I will expound a little more.  Back to great organizations have great plans.  Great organizations also follow the great plans.  But the best organizations tell everyone what they have done.  I fall into the trap a lot that…

Day 109:  How do I improve the lives of our residents?  In yesterday’s post I asked if you are improving the lives of the residents.  So, I would assume you would than ask how do I do that?  Historically economic development has been about creating jobs. Whenever we work with clients we tell them to…

Day 108:  Should you be concerned with your citizen’s wealth?  Today we had a conversation with Ed Burghard, CEO of The Burghard Group, strengtheningamerica.com,  Ed is the best in the country when it comes to branding.  If you want to have a clearer definition of branding than visit his website.  We economic developers are lucky…

Day 107: Team building:  This is not a talk about sitting around the fire singing.  But this is about truly working to build a team.  For your organization to be successful, you need to have everyone on your team singing the same song.  I am not saying you need people that are saying yes to…

Day 106:  What do you do when someone lets you down?  Now this may be a weird topic, but it happens to all of us.  I try to not disappoint, but sometimes things are out of our control.  And, always remember that if someone you work with disappointed you, it most likely was not intentional. …

Day 105:  Distracted again?  It is so easy to get distracted during the work day.  I don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.  So, I promise I won’t keep harping on this.  It’s probably more for me than you.  It’s all about a plan.  If you have a great plan than you should have a hard…

Day 104:  If I were to do one thing today, what would it be?  Hmm.  There are so many right answers.  But, I am going with the philosophical answer (probably because I attended a church retreat this weekend).  During this retreat, I had some time to think about my priorities.  For me they are God,…

Day 103:  Have you asked someone how you are doing?  Very few economic development organizations and some chamber of commerce review the staff every year.  Most people are uncomfortable doing reviews and being reviewed.  Even when we are doing an awesome job, it’s not something we seek out.  We recommend to our clients that they…

Day 102:  Do I get distracted?  This might seem to be a strange post.  The purpose of my posts are to help you with your day to day activities.  I find myself distracted today, so I thought I should get busy and write to get me back on track.   With the advent of the internet…

Day 101: Rankings:  One of the sessions at IEDC was about rankings.  At one point one of the speakers discussed that he had gone back and looked at the rankings over several years.  He was surprised that Provo, UT, Des Moines, IA and Tulsa, OK has continuously come in at the top for several years. …

Day 100:  Workforce:  Last week I attended the International Economic Development Council Annual meeting in Philadelphia.  I always look at the agenda with a careful eye towards any trends.  Workforce issues have always been on the agenda for as long as I can remember.  Skills have also been the main topic.  But it seems that…

Day 99:  If I have a plan, should I follow it?  Now this may seem to be the most idiotic question a person can ask.  But, like my comment yesterday, you would be shocked how many organizations pay for a firm to do a strategic plan and turn around and never look at it again. …

Day 98:  Have I updated my data?  When we do our site selection work, we are always amazed about how old a lot of the websites we look at.  Many economic development organizations have not touched their website since they put them online which could have been five years ago.  While, websites can start to…

Day 97:  A cool new tool.  Since I started writing this blog earlier in the year, I had listed some must need tools.  The world does not stop, nor do new products.  A recent new tool which is offered by Google is called Google Hangout.  This is really a very nice tool for conferencing.  It…

Day 96:  How can I plan?  By plan, I mean plan for my organizations future.  I have read most people don’t really like to plan.  But we all have to do it.  We need to plan our day including how our kids get to and from work.  We all plan.  Planning does not have to…

Day 95:  A great success story: Last week I attended our state conference.  The entire afternoon of the conference was called a Bar Camp.  I’m sure most of you know what a Bar Camp is.  I was very disappointed it did not include alcohol or tents!  It is where someone spur of the moment picks…

Day 94:  E-Newsletters.  In most cases this is an every month occurrence.  E-Newsletters.  Some view them as extra work.  I know I don’t particularly enjoy them, but they are necessary.  I also know that the open rate is not that good.  And how many of you have board members that ask you about something that…

Day 93:  Existing Business continued:  I have so many great stories I can’t decide which ones are best to share.  When I first started in this business, I had a company that was very successful, locally owned and employed about 300 people.  The owners sold out to a competitor.  We immediately scheduled a trip to…

Day 92:  Existing Business Continued:  Obviously writing several posts about existing business should display how important this topic is.  Until I became a consultant I spent most of my career helping existing business.  When I was with the utility it was for self-interest that we helped our customers.  We had a very large consumer of…

Day 91:  How quickly should I respond to email?:  I am taking a break today to talk about my pet peeve.  Every day I call and send emails to prospective clients (communities) and I am lucky if I get a response from 30%.  I respond to every person that either emails me or calls me…

Day 90:  Existing Business Stories Continued:  Many years ago before Synchronist existed an economic development organization would make their own survey instrument and go out and make calls.  When I was at the state, we had developed a survey for communities to use.  I would sometimes go out and make calls with the community.  At…

Day 89:  What should I do for my local employers?  This is a big topic.  There are so many options.  If you need some ideas go to LinkedIn and join the existing business groups.  Besides holding an annual event as discussed yesterday or holding regular visits as I discussed on Day 10 there are so…

Day 88:  Should I have an Existing Business event?  Most definitely.  You could tie it into the annual meeting event I discussed on Day 87, but it would be better if you made it a standalone event.  Invite all of your businesses that are making something or providing a unique service.  It should not matter…

Day 87:  Do I need to have an annual dinner?  When I writing a blog for every day of the work week for a year,  I will end up talking about pretty much everything.  Most of you have written in your by-laws to have an annual meeting.  This meeting can just be a normal monthly…

Day 86: Are there some neat tools out there for us?  Every once in a while I will do some shameless promotion.  Not very often, I promise.  We have some really cool tools for economic development organizations and for Chamber of Commerce.  First, we can make an app.  We have some canned apps at www.EDisplayapp.com…

Day 85:  Should I use Facebook?   Facebook in the business world is not for everyone.  My wife and I also own a bed and breakfast.  Facebook makes sense for a B&B because we typically connect with our guests, because we have meaningful interaction at check-in and breakfast.  We also have many regular guests and they…

Day 84:  What’s the best way to Tweet?  Following yesterday’s conversation, I wanted to delve more into some of these social media tools.  I did discuss social media on Day(s) 7, 8, 9.   Strangely as I was typing this my good friends at Golden Shovel posted a blog about Twitter, http://blog.goldenshovelagency.com/2013/08/27/can-twitter-trends-be-useful-for-economic-developers/  This is a nice…

Day 83:  Stay connected:  In most professions it is extremely important to stay connected to your customers/clients, peers, friends and family.  It is my observation that most people don’t reach out very often.  Or maybe it is just me and no one wants to contact me, which could very well be the case!   But with…

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. Yes, even economic development organizations can lose their way or veer off into directions they never intended to get involved with. The SSG Roadmap, which many may call a strategic plan, is intended to identify and isolate key strategic issues and…

Day 82: Rankings  This past week one of our clients made the top 25 Best Places to Live as determined by CNN/Money.  Great news!.  It is  nice to be recognized.  If your community should get s great designation, take full advantage.  Duh! you say.  All right I can’t be full wisdom every day!    Some rankings…

Day 81:  Raising money is tough.  It doesn’t have to be.  Now the process to successfully raise money is hard work, but not tough.  If your organization is doing everything right, raising money is actually a breeze.  We have one client that exceeds their fundraising goals every time they go out for an ask because…

Day 80:  How can I do a better job?  “But I am doing a great job” you say.  I’m sure you are.  But we can always do better.  If you are new to this business, you probably are doing a great job because you want to learn.  The average person stops wanting to learn at…

Day 79:  Why does everyone chase a data center?  Three of our recent clients have been in the running for several of the big data centers that have been looking around.  They have landed some of them and we have learned from the experience.  They don’t typically employ a lot of people.  Most states have…

Day 78:  Common goals.  Okay, several of my ramblings have been about this topic.  But I pull from real life situations every day when I write these, and I had one recently that is a great example.  A local economic development person has developed key contacts with some data center companies over the years.  Through…

Day 77:  What makes a utility a great economic development partner?  Since I was the Director of Economic Development for a utility company for fifteen years, I think I might know a little about this.  In this months issue of Site Selection Magazine they picked the best utilities in economic development, http://www.siteselection.com/issues/2013/sep/top-utilities.cfm  It appears the…

Day 76:  Where do I find good volunteers?  It is getting harder and harder to find people that are committed to volunteering.  We all know there are many reasons; working longer and harder; both spouses work outside the home; too much information is being thrown at us every day.  But in the economic development and…

Day 75:  How do we get everyone to work together?  I have absolutely no idea!  If I did I wouldn’t be writing a blog every day that is not being read by anyone.  (Ok, I know at least a couple people are reading it.  Love you Mom!)  It is unfortunate but someone is always unhappy…

Day 74: How should we organize?  When at a meeting with a client the other day we were asked what is the best way to organize for economic development.  With almost thirty years in the business and helping over 400 economic development organizations we probably have an opinion.  The opinion is, it depends…   But the…

Day 73: What do I do with a person wanting to start a business?  When I first started as a Chamber Exec in Hampton, Iowa I would get someone stopping in once/month that had a great business idea.  The first three times it happened, I was so interested in their idea and became excited about…

Day 72:  Is learning important?  Of course we all know it is important to continue to learn.  To be successful in any field you need to stay on top of trends and tools.  The best source for economic developers is to belong to your state-wide association.  They all offer at least yearly conferences presenting current…

Day 71:  Are my board meetings productive?  Times have changed.  It used to be that people that committed to serving on a board actually served on a board.  For some reason, boards are having problems getting people to attend on a regular basis.  Part of it is because both spouses now work outside the home,…

Day 70:  Stop and check your progress:  Every day as an economic developer there is always something new and different for you to do.  A community is a growing changing entity and we get pulled in all sorts of directions.  In my work, I can get pulled in so many different ways as a small…

Day 69:  What makes a good economic developer?  Several of my past posts have touched on different pieces of this.  As with any career, be willing to learn.  Be inquisitive.  Attend conferences.  Stretch yourself and go to a personal improvement course of some sort.  One of my all-time favorite books is Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits…

Day 68:  How important are certified sites?  Over the last five years the hot trend in economic development has been certified sites.  The cynical side of me first thought it was a new product line for engineering firms.  And, actually it was.  But it is a good idea too.  I believe Oregon was the first…

Day 67:  Do virtual buildings matter?   In a competitive environment the company that gets to the market first tends to do better.  So, most companies want to have their facility up as fast as possible if they are in a competitive market so they can get their product in the hands of the client first. …

Day 67:  Should I have a spec building?  This has been a debate for the last thirty years.  I view spec buildings as an expensive marketing effort.  But as in most things in life you get what you pay for.  On average a spec building will sit empty for five years.  During the recession it…

Day 66:  Economic development is a team sport:  I recently have experienced a situation where city government didn’t feel that the nonprofit economic development group was doing enough.  The city was giving a substantial amount of money to the organization.  It is a small city of 15,000.  So the city hired their own economic development…

Day 65:  What should I measure?   We feel it is very important for an organization to understand and measure their success.   So every plan we do is driven by the outcomes we identify.  The outcomes also should include measurements of success.  These measurements serve several purposes.  They keep the organization focused; they provide the backbone…

Day 64:  How do I make contact?  No, I don’t mean with aliens.  I mean, how I contact a prospect.  If your community has targets as suggested earlier on Day 11, 15, 22, 53, then you will need to talk to a live person at some point.  As I have stated before economic development involves…

Day 63:  Should I care who my competition is?  I suppose it is important, but it seems we spend more time trying to figure out who the competition is instead of putting the best proposal together that we can.  I have always felt I should try to put together the best package I can right…

Day 62:  Do I need a cash fund?  Last week I attended and economic development conference.  One of the sessions was about incentives.  One of the presenters was a local economic developer.  He told the group about the “closing fund”  that their community has.  It is a multi million dollar fund.  In the last year…

Day 61:  Following up with the prospect.  As with any sales call, follow-up is critical.  Any time a prospect visits there will be additional information they will request because there are always items they will bring up and you won’t have an answer.  The ideal situation is to have all the answers, but most of…

Day 60:  The Prospect visit:  This is a timely post as I just participated in a prospect visit yesterday.  This prospect is a household name and a very large capital project.  Before the prospect visit you have hopefully collected some information from the prospect so you are completely prepared.  But,  our prospect visit yesterday reminded…

Day 59:  A Prospect is Visiting.  Besides helping an existing business grow the next big moment is when a prospect visits your community.   They are visiting because you made the short list.  This typically means you have a building or site that meets their criteria.  It also means you have completed the needed steps to…

Day 58:  BEST PRACTICES reviewed.  We have completed the BEST PRACTICES study over the last thirteen days.  While these topics are extremely important there is no replacement for good old fashioned hard work.  I guess I am showing my age, but hard work will always be the differentiator in success in economic development.  In this…

Day 56: Endowing:  Successful organizations promote the long term nature of economic development and promote the importance of “endowing”/stabilizing funding through a balance of public and private sources.  Most of the communities we work with could always use more funding.  But the key is to have balanced funding.  Many organizations rely just on public funding. …

Day 55: Competitive:  Best Practices organizations understand that they operate in a competitive environment. They set clear goals and are highly focused on success.  I was born to an Iowa farm couple.  Common sense is just a way of  life to me.  Most of our BEST PRACTICES words are just plain common sense.  But you…

Day 54:  Involving:  Best Practices organizations are actively seeking new volunteers with valuable expertise to carry out strategy. Keeping volunteers motivated by assigning manageable tasks with clear deadlines builds a ‘pipeline” of potential new leaders.  Over prior days we have discussed the importance of having good leaders.  But in most of the communities where we…

Day 53:  Targeting:   Successful organizations realize that target marketing is an ongoing process that involves online sources, local marketing intelligence networks and emphasizes existing business opportunities.  I have already mentioned this topic several times in Day(s) 11, 15, 22.  I guess I can’t emphasize enough that in order for you to spend your time wisely,…

Day 52: Communicating:  Best Practices organizations place great emphasis on frequent, open and transparent communications and identify key messages for target audiences.   As I mentioned yesterday great communication is the key for success for an economic development corporation.  We have clients that say, we don’t want to bother our members.  True, you have to figure…

Day 51:  Assertive:  Successful organizations are known throughout the community for who they are, where they stand and what they are trying to accomplish.  We would probably be out of a job if economic development organizations communicated better.   Some groups are so secretive I don’t know why they don’t just become part of the Mason’s. …

SSG is very pleased to have helped Greater Fremont Development Council with their executive search.  We have enjoyed working on several different projects over the last few months.  Here is the press release issued jointly by GFDC and the Greater Omaha Economic Development Partnership: Cecilia Harry Appointed Executive Director of Greater Fremont Development Council (Fremont,…

Day 50:  Representing:  Best Practices organizations are always looking to reach deeply into all segments of the community for leadership, funding and involvement.  In case you haven’t noticed I feel pretty strongly that the composition of your board is very important.  They must be engaged and they must also understand their roles.  Very few organizations…

Day 49: Partnering,  We have completed the word, BEST and now moving to PRACTICES.  Successful organizations are continually exploring “mutually beneficial” partnerships that will leverage resources and maximize results.  I have discussed the concept of partnering in earlier days.  On Day 32 I mentioned the importance of working closely with the communities nearby.  Over the…

SSG is pleased that we were able to assist in finding a new Vice President of Economic Development for Council B luffs.  The following is a press release from the Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce:  The Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce the hiring of Michael Dellinger as their new Vice…

Day 48:  Training: Best Practices organizations emphasize Board Member training that is focused on the business of economic development, how their organization operates and what they do, and how to communicate the “value” of the organization to the community and stakeholders.  As mentioned in earlier blogs it is extremely important to have great leadership.  It…

Day 47:  Studying    Successful organizations place a high priority on current, comprehensive data and analysis that defines your “product” and will meet the needs of potential prospects.  I have not talked much about data.  But having complete data on your community is a must!  Sure, the site selectors purchase their own data when they are…

SSG completed site selection work in Sierra Vista, AZ in late 2012 for a client looking at a site in Sierra Vista.  From this meeting the Sierra Vista Economic Development Foundation asked if we could facilitate a board retreat.  After the day long retreat is completed the board will have a new plan for the…

Day 46:  Evolving:  Great organizations are constantly “evolving”….refining strategies, reallocating resources, rethinking their mission to maximize results.  If you keep doing the same thing every year, you will start to fall behind as an organization and community.  A great economic developer is constantly on the lookout for new tools, new priorities.  That is not to…

Day 45:  The first letter is “B” for Building.  Successful organizations are focused on building on their strengths and leveraging their assets effectively.  I have discussed the point of building in several of my earlier blogs.  Great organizations use the assets they have to build success.  One of communities is located on the Mississippi River. …

Day 44:  BEST PRACTICES  In 2005 a utility company hired us to determine what made some of their small towns successful.  We interviewed the communities and reviewed demographics, etc to determine what made them the best they could be.  They were in five different states and the population ranged from 1500 to 5000.  From that…

Day 43:  When should I bring in help?  Sure, I like this topic as I am the “help”.  Today I was talking to a client that is having some serious issues with an economic development ally.  They are at an impasse.  While they can try to work it out, personalities sometimes can’t be overcome after…

Day 42:  Am I the right person for the job?  We just completed an executive search for one of client communities.  For this client they used a personality test to help them rank the top three candidates after the interviews were held.  As they went through this process it made me think about what is…

Day 41:  What kind of small business do we want?  Why is this a question?  My economic development or chamber organization can’t control who starts a business in my community, you say to yourself.  As I pointed out in Day 39, it is very important to get involved in the endeavor of entrepreneurial efforts.  I…

Day 40:  Is there help out there to build an entrepreneurial environment?  Yes,  we can help you.  Sorry to be so blatant.  But we looked far and wide for a system that we thought would help our clients.  We found it in a program called Evisthrive, .  We are excited about what this program can…

Day 39:  What is the first step in building an entrepreneurial environment?   This will be a short day.  The first step is to realize the importance of actually having a program.  You need to identify someone that is passionate about small business.  As with most activities you need a champion.  This person must be a…

Day 38:  What are these entrepreneurs?  As I type this the hot topic in economic development is growing small businesses.  Everyone has an answer but very few economic development groups seem to want to find the answer.  When you consider that 40% of the kids that are in college right now want to own their…

Day 37:  How important is leadership? I talked a little about this earlier on Day 16.  There was a great example of a leader in a town in SE Iowa.  He owned the industrial parks in the town and was very aggressive.  He constantly stayed in touch with state officials including the Governor.  He would…

Day 36:  We have the best schools.  I don’t want to offend anyone but most of our clients want us to highlight their great schools when we are designing a marketing plan.  While there are some bad schools in the world, there are actually a whole lot of great schools.  We push our clients to…

Day 35:  Should I take a vacation?  As I type this I am getting ready to go on a family vacation.  The other day I was traveling with a young man and I asked if he was taking a trip this summer.  He said, “Nah, the cool thing to do now is work.”  I’m all…

Day 34:  Know you properties.  I am always amazed how little homework economic developers do to find out about the properties in their community or region.  Some time every single day should be carved out to learn more about your available properties.  Drive around town and write down the addresses and real estate agents names…

Day 33:  How do I handle CAVE people?  I’m sure most of you know CAVE is an acronym for Citizens Against Virtually Everything.  Every community has them.  The first thing to do is to realize that they are good to have in a community.  They will challenge you.  But when you are planning for a…

Day 32:  How important is a regional group?  If you are already involved with a regional group or you are a regional group you know the answer that it is very important to be part of a regional group.  There have been regional groups in some areas of the country for many years.  It is…

Day 31:  How do I ask for a raise?  Now if you started on the job the same time I started this blog you probably should not ask for a raise after being there only 31 days!  But, if you have been on the job for over a year, a raise is something to consider. …

Day 30:  How do I handle a challenging board member.  As I have stated in several of these posts, just do what is right and it will all work out.  We will all have board members that can be a real challenge.  The cause will be everything from the personalities to mistrust.  Some issues you…

Day 29:  Put things in Perspective:  I was supposed to talk about how to deal with challenging board member situations.  But, my Uncle Harold passed away Sunday morning.  The funeral will be in a couple of days and it caused me to reflect on things.  The purpose of this blog is to help an economic…

Day 28: How do I handle politics part 2:  On day 27 I discussed how to work with elected politicians.   But as we all know there are non-elected “politics”  that we have to deal with.  It is the most frustrating part of this job, I feel.  In my mind there are no losers in economic…

Day 27:  How do I handle politics?  As an economic development director there are two sorts of politics.  Really no different than most other jobs.  But elected officials can have a bigger impact on our jobs than most other professions.  Today, I will talk about elected officials politics.  The next day, I will talk about…

Day 26: A tribute to Bill Krause: I was to talk about local politics but today I want to take a moment and say a special word about one of my mentors.  My first job out of college was the Executive Director of the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development.  I managed two…

Day 25:  How do I handle bad situations?  As I have said before a good economic developer is not doing their job if they aren’t upsetting someone.  That sounds a little crass but it is true.  The secret is to get the person upset to actually be your friend two days later.  Easier said than…

Day 24:  What should my typical day look like?  You are about a month into the new job,  you have figured out who you should be collaborating with, meeting with, keeping happy, learning about and finding the coffee pot.  So a typical day was said tongue in cheek.  There really isn’t a typical day.   That’s…

Day 23:  What makes your community/region unique? When we develop a plan for our clients we spend a lot of time focusing on finding out what unique features they have.  Or at least some features that not every community has.  They can be simple things like located on a navigable river, interstate or lake.  A…

Day 22:  Do I go to trade shows?  I’m sorry I feel like I am jumping around on my days!  Going forward I am going to try to tie in the days better so there is a natural progression from day to day.  But, we economic developers never have the same day twice, so maybe…

Day 21:  How do I start a BR&E Program?  As suggested in prior days taking care of the business you already have is THE most important thing you can do.  I am sorry if I offend anyone with some of my comments, but I am really surprised when I come across an economic development organization…

Day 20:  What are some professional resources I should use?  Let me be clear, today’s blog will be self-promotion.  But a few of these contacts we are not partnered with at this time.  If you need organizational help, develop a strategic plan, marketing plan, we can help you with that. Property database system, LocationOne Information…

Day 19:  What resources can I turn to?  A great economic developer knows who can help them.  Both professionally and getting the job done.  Today I got to hear Michigan Governor Rick Snyder speak at the International Economic Development Conference.  He said a lot of things that made sense but I particularly liked his phrase,…

Day 18:  Do I need research?  The other day I was doing work for a client that had hired us to do an executive search for them.  One of the candidates asked me a question I had never been asked.  Does the organization have a researcher on staff?  Great question!  If you look at the…

Day 17:  What marketing materials do I need?  I could write a book about this topic.  I probably will discuss this point on many other days.  The questions we get asked a lot by our clients, is printed or not printed.  We say both.  We don’t say it because we are trying to be wishy…

Day 16: Leadership:  On Day 4 we talked about who should be on your board.  In my almost 30 years as an economic development professional I have to say what makes a community successful comes down to just one thing, leadership.  There is story after story where you hear about a community that 100 years…

Day 15:   What will draw the attention of a company?  Nothing.  Oops, did I just say that?  While our firm is a BIG believer in marketing your community, we don’t encourage our clients to use a shot gun approach.  You must target the industries you want as I discussed on Day 11.  Based on these…

Day 14:  Incentives anyone?  This topic will generate more additional days of discussion.  Incentives are a necessary evil for now.  Businesses will tell you incentives are not the first thing they consider when looking for a location but incentives do  weed out communities at the end.  I’m sure some day incentives will no longer be…

Day 13: Do I have enough money?  After you have your strategic plan in place, you need to figure out how to pay for everything in the plan.  Maybe your organization is blessed with a lot of money.  But most of you could always use more.  My advice is very simple, hire a professional fundraising…

Day 12: Do I need a strategic plan?  Well of course you need a plan.  BUT you have to follow the plan.  We prefer to call our plans business plans.  A good plan has goals, objectives and action items.  These should be thoroughly vetted with the community and your board.  The plan should include a…

Day 11:  What are my targets?  It is important to focus your resources and time so that you are not trying to be all things to all people.  ED groups get pulled lots of different directions.  Everyone has an opinion on what types of businesses should be locating in your respective community.  At SSG, we…

Day 10:  Take care of what you got. For many years we have been told that 80% of growth in a community comes from your existing business.  I would argue that in most communities that percentage is much higher.  I can’t stress enough the importance of taking care of your local businesses.  You should devote…

Day 9:  More Social Media.  Ok, this will be a short message  I am trying very hard to shorten these posts.  Lots of groups are having a tough time deciding if they should be using Facebook.  All of these apps are time killers, so you must be strategic about how you use the social media…

SSG recently completed a one year business plan which involved reorganizing the board and helping to bring together Greater Fremont Development Council and the Omaha Chamber.  Learn more by clicking here.

Day 8: What’s the best social media?:  This is a large topic and I will probably devote several days (not in a row) to this topic over the year.  Yesterday I was at the RECON show in Las Vegas representing one of our clients.  The luncheon speaker was Randi Zuckerberg (sister of Paul, the founder…

Day 7: How do I communicate?  I wanted to get this point out of the way because this has always been my weakest part of the job as an economic development pro.  So as my Mom always said to me, do as I say, not as I do.  Since very few of you reading this…

What is my product?  At SSG we always encourage our clients to think of their community or region as a product.  That means you must identify the benefits and features.  Early on in the job it is imperative that you drive around the community and become familiar with your available buildings, and sites.  When I…

What do I need to know?  A pretty broad question.  Sorry.  The intent of this blog is to offer learning opportunities.  Economic Development is a profession.  I sort of get bent out of shape when a large ED organization board hires someone with absolutely no economic development experience.  I started in a small town and…

Who should be on my board?  Some of you have by-laws that will dictate who can be on your board.  But remember by-laws can always be changed.  The usual suspects should be on the board.  Utilities and banks are the first to turn to.  These two businesses have the strongest attachment to the community.  If…

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…

What software should I have in my office?  Since you should be focusing on creating wealth for the citizens in your community or region, I need to reiterate that you need to be focused on taking care of your existing businesses, promoting your community and making your community a better place.  So with that in…

What’s in the office?  Do you have the equipment you need?  Do you have the resources you need?   When I started in 1985 the office equipment I use now didn’t even exist!  Such as cell phones and PC’s.  Every month we mailed a newsletter.  I had taken the job from an older gentleman and his…

Partner Clark Smith,  was asked to speak about leaving the corporate world and owning his own company.  Drake University has an excellent MBA program and Clark was thrilled to share his insights about his thought process ,and the steps he took to both open a bed and breakfast with his wife and then become a…

My name is Clark Smith and I have been practicing economic development my entire career, since 1985.  I would say, for the most part, that I have truly enjoyed my time.  I started as the exec for the Hampton Area Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development in 1985.  In 1986 I moved to the Iowa…

We are pleased to be given the opportunity to work with a brand new economic development organization in Cherokee County Kansas. SSG will provide organizational direction and develop a Roadmap to Success that the group will follow for the next five years. SSG really enjoys helping communities located in Greater America. We can’t wait to…

Wow! Two of our current clients had some great news last week. Congrats to Council Bluffs Chamber of Commerce for their Google expansion announcement. And we are very pleased with the data center locations that are being announced in East Polk, IA. Great work by Eastern Polk Regional Development. When our clients win we feel…

Executive Director, Fremont, Nebraska Job Description & Qualifications Please email your resume to csmith@smartsolutionsgroup.net General The Executive Director is responsible to the Greater Fremont Development Council Executive Board for all activities of the organization. Those include the promotion of economic development in Fremont and Dodge County, with the objective of creating more and better employment…

Vice President of Economic Development Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce Please email your resume to csmith@smartsolutionsgroup.net Job Scope The Vice President of Economic Development shall be a full time, paid staff position with the Council Bluffs Area Chamber of Commerce. The Vice President is hired and supervised by the President of the Chamber with…

Greater Fremont Development has signed an agreement to join the Omaha Economic Development Partnership.  GFDC asked SSG to assist in suggesting organizational improvements and to develop a one and five year business plan.  Through a series of discussions with key stakeholders in the community the idea to partner with Omaha was discussed and approved.  Click…

Here is a useful article from Inc. Magazine. They give good simple advice on how to create an email that will be read by your members or by a company. 7 Ways to Ensure Your Emails Get Read

Incubators are programs designed to help a select grouping of businesses succeed. These programs are increasingly becoming the “Go-To” program for Public Policymakers, Economic Developers, and Cities seeking to grow local entrepreneurs. The intent with incubators is to select the entrepreneurs behind the businesses that will (most likely) be successful and provide local mentoring, capital,…

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