by John Moore
When I first joined the Greenville Chamber of Commerce for what I thought would be a one-year diversion from my brand marketing career, I knew very little about the world of economic development. I was extremely curious and set out on a personal quest to learn as much as I could about how top-performing communities improved their economic competitiveness. It was fascinating stuff! So much so that I lost track of time, and my one year turned into 18.
During that period of intense learning, one of my most interesting discoveries was that the term “economic development” meant one thing inside South Carolina and largely something else beyond our borders. Here it meant recruiting large industry and developing the infrastructure, workforce and incentives necessary to attract them. This region had used that single strategy to completely transform itself from the declining textile capital of the world to the advanced manufacturing hub we see today.
However, beyond our borders, economic development meant something bigger, something broader. It meant a bundle of interconnected strategies for developing the local economy that included existing industry development and high-impact entrepreneurship, in addition to industrial recruitment. This diversified approach to economic development was eye-opening and helped energize and inform our launch of new efforts like NEXT for high-impact entrepreneurs, a Regional Economic Scorecard to measure economic competitiveness, and more.
An expanded approach to economic development is required for us to compete effectively for talent, capital and companies on the global stage. While business recruiting will remain a critical part of our development efforts, it can no longer sustain us by itself and must be augmented with other strategies like supporting existing industry and growing our own globally impactful companies.
So next time you hear the words “economic development” being thrown about, be an advocate for the larger definition and the higher expectations for the future that come with it.
John Moore is founder and principal with Momenteum Strategies, a Greenville consulting firm specializing in developing innovation ecosystems and entrepreneur support programs for communities and economic development organizations around the world.