Your Economic Development Checklist

Your Economic Development Checklist

By Dan Botich, Associate, Sr. Economic Development Professional, East Region Practice Leader, Short-Elliott-Hendrickson, Inc. (SEH)

If an organization is going to be successful with economic development (ED), it’s going to need a broad range of critical capabilities. The primary goal of any ED organization must be responsiveness to investors, service area representative inquiries, and most importantly site selector and prospect inquiries for data and relevant information.

This article focuses on the top five items every economic development organization or ED official should always have in their toolbox.


  1. Fully Understand the Role of Your Organization

Go to your staff and ask them to recite the organization’s mission, vision, and values. Everyone needs to be on the same page with the right answer. When your organization “sings” from the same song book, results and success will come more easily.

Action Item: Review these main concepts with staff regularly. Discuss the mission (your internal approach to result achievement), the vision (how you desire to be perceived by external entities) and the values of your organization.


  1. Understand the Role of a Site Selector

Site selectors are bound by time, resources, and evaluation to assist a prospect in making a locational decision. This means that they must follow a process of elimination when choosing between different states, regions, communities. They are attempting to identify specific items on their list that will make your location stand out, so your goal is to attract their attention.

What factors do site selectors take into consideration when vetting communities? Some of the most critical factors include:

  • Available skilled labor
  • Labor costs
  • Worker qualifications
  • Quality of life in the region
  • Existing and planned infrastructure
  • Technology available (including telecommunications)
  • Transportation systems
  • Related industries in the region
  • Infrastructure
  • Regional resources (natural and artificial)

Action Item: Address and have a one-page summary on each of these topics to help ensure that you respond timely. Responsiveness is a key relationship criterion for site selectors.


  1. Understand Basic Municipal Taxation

A basic understanding of local and state property taxation is critical to understanding the how to analyze a prospect as a potential “deal” or “dog.” This will allow you to respond immediately with relative certainty as to potential taxes due, impacts of financial incentivization, or even tax rate or tax levy impacts. Knowing surrounding communities’ tax rates are just as critical to knowing your own tax rates. In many instances, they may be your competitors.

Action Item: Meet with your county auditor to review how property taxes are calculated for your tax unit or community.


  1. Understand the Primary Financial Incentives of TIF and Tax Abatement

Vetting prospects based upon potential property taxation and financial incentives will allow you to be efficient in your responses to site selector requests for proposals. This is about a longitudinal approach to overall economic development success based upon building economic growth for which everyone in the community and the region benefits.

Action Item: Identify and review your state’s statutory chapters on TIF and Tax Abatement. This is important to knowing the terminology and process.


  1. Understand What Attracts Talent to a Region (and Keeps Them)

Having the amenities to attract and keep talent is important to economic development and cannot be overlooked for your checklist. Below is a list of the 15 primary factors that individuals will consider when making a locational decision for living and working consistent with their lifestyle:

  • Urban / Rural / Suburban Life (Access)
  • Employment Opportunities and Growth
  • Wage Opportunities
  • Housing Options (from Single to Family to Elderly) & Stock
  • Public Safety
  • Schools (Elementary / High School / University)
  • Health Facilities
  • Recreation – Regional Resources (Natural and Artificial)
  • Cost of Living
  • Quality of Life
  • Culture and Diversity
  • Restaurants and Entertainment / Event Opportunities
  • Technology Available (including Telecommunications)
  • Transportation Modes Availability
  • Volunteer Opportunities of Time, Talent, and Treasure

Action Item: Develop and prepare a talent attraction and retention amenities report and have a one-page overview that addresses each of these amenities, like the site selector list of topics.


Start Your Checklist

Start your economic development checklist today and work on checking off these tasks. Your teams will become more motivated to improve and succeed, your work will become more rewarding, and your economic development organization will have a higher probability of success. Good luck!

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