By Pete Julius

Since the late 1990’s, corporate expansion and relocation activity has simmered.  Corporate real estate investments still exist, but don’t happen at the rapid pace that occurred in the early and mid 1990’s.  The past few years have made it extremely challenging for economic developers to achieve their marketing objectives.  As a result, most economic developers are finding themselves under a microscope with their boards and respective communities.  To make matters worse, a large proportion of economic development agencies have seen a decrease in their budgets.  They do not have enough staffing, funding, revenue or hours in the day.  Given these challenging times and tumultuous scenarios, what can economic developers do to help stimulate effective marketing?

The solution is to work smarter.  So what do you need to do to work smarter? Here is a short list to get you started.

Increase Focus – spend most of your time attending to those tasks that are best suited for you and that are your direct responsibility.  Delegate all unnecessary tasks.  If you do not have a staff for delegating, investigate outsourcing certain functions.  If you cannot do either of these, then tell your board what resources you need to get the job done properly.  Greater focus will help relieve frustration and increase your results. 

Prioritize – Just do it!  Do the things that have to get done first, and then move onto the less important tasks.  Prioritization will help guide your focus.

Follow Through – do what you need to do or what you say you are going to do and keep your promises.  Not following through on your tasks or your promises is the king of all screw-ups.  It leads to disasters and additional tasks that keep you away from the things that you need to be doing.  Follow-through is essential to generate more opportunities and minimize additional, avoidable tasks.

Collaborate – knowing what your board expects of you and understanding the needs of your community is essential to the success of your job, and ultimately the community.  How can you understand your responsibilities as an economic developer if you do not understand what the community needs?  Collaboration will reveal needs, threats, opportunities and ideas that will help eliminate unnecessary tasks and increase your focus on the appropriate objectives.

 Use Technology – we live in a world where technology allows us to be more productive, so take advantage of it.  The Internet has provided us with access to a wealth of information and places all over the world, not to mention the opportunity to get the lowest prices possible. Cell phones, laptops, palm pilots and other communication devices make it easier to reach people at any time in any place.  The advantages of technology provide the fastest and easiest route to making work easier.

These are all ideas to help you work smarter.  Of course, everyone’s situation is different, but this list includes action items that are relevant to every economic developer.  Economic development is filled with endless challenges.  Those challenges can be minimized by how smartly you approach your job.