Economic development is notoriously complex, frequently involving many different government agencies and multiple different departments in just one business opening.
The traditional way of structuring economic development is to have one person with the title of economic development director. (If you’re a small town, that might be a half-time person, or shared with a larger organization. If you’re a bigger town, it might be a small team.) The EcDev person spends a lot of their time trying to pry cooperation out of other departments and agencies who really aren’t motivated to focus on development because it’s “not their job.”
|Mayor of Norfolk County Dennis Travale|
and Becky McCray talking about Small Town Rules.
Norfolk County, Ontario, has a smart economic development program, the Development Action Team (DAT). Christopher Baird, General Manager of the Planning and Economic Development Services Department, shared some information about it.
The Development Action Team (DAT) includes members from all the different departments that get involved in development: Engineering, Planning, Recreation, Building, Roads, Economic Development. It works in a collaborative way, with more problem-solving than finger-pointing. They work closely with all county departments, which is critical to making it work. Not only do they think about the big picture of economic development of the county, but they also develop company-specific action plans to support growth and mitigate challenges. Each person who serves on the team gains a broader knowledge and understanding of businesses in the county.
Besides their traditional industries of agriculture and manufacturing, they are working on diversifying with their emerging businesses in tourism, arts, culture, heritage, green energy and entrepreneurship. While I was there, Norfolk County named their entrepreneur of the year, youth entrepreneur of the year, and their travel writer of the year who featured their county. Awards like this are important in showing what matters to your community. Their jobs plan includes strong support for entrepreneurs, youth and regional collaboration.
The people of Norfolk County impressed me with their solid approach to economic development.
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.