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Every decade is noted for something. The 1970s, well, I’m sorry, but it was the disco era. The 1980s, well, that was the “punk” era. As it relates to economic development strategy, the 1990s was the era of the three I’s: Inventory, Incentives and Infrastructure. In other words, did you have enough land and buildings (inventory), what are you offering me (incentives), and do you have enough roads, sewers, power and information technology (infrastructure). All of those factors were very important for businesses making decisions on where to locate their facilities in the 1990s. However, similar to “disco” and “punk,” the I’s (ayes) don’t have it.
|Phil D'Amico, director of business growth at The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County|
Today, in the 21st-century way of doing things, and in the future, economic and community development is all about the P’s of economic development: People, Place and Position — and then throw in Patience and Perception for good measure. They will drive the success a community is to have in attracting and retaining businesses. These days, every community should be well-stocked with inventory, as there is a great abundance of land and buildings available. Cities have had 20 to 30 years to get roads, fiber, water and power in place that are necessary elements for a community to just get into the game. As it relates to incentives, well, in case you have not realized it, local, state and federal governments don’t exactly have a lot of extra cash lying around, so incentives are not as abundant as they once were, and cities really only have tax abatements (tax phase-ins) or tax incremental financing (TIF) as the top incentives they can offer. In addition, incentives run out and, on average, usually last only three to five years maximum.
|Jeff Rea, president and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County|
Business owners and executives want to know there is an available workforce on the ground that offers diverse skill sets to accommodate all jobs across the board. They also want to know that there is an educational system that will continue to enhance the credentials of the workforce. So the people aspect is very important. As Jeff Rea, president and CEO of The Chamber of Commerce of St. Joseph County, said, “People are one of the most critical factors in businesses making decisions on where to locate. It is well-stated, but almost 70 percent of today’s jobs require a middle-skill-level education, which is a high school diploma, plus either an associate’s-level degree or some type of post-high school certification. Certainly computer literacy is a necessary skill today for all jobs across the board.” Along those lines, communities need to have successful K–12 educational systems that train our youth today for the jobs of tomorrow.
The place that your community is and has become is also a major factor. People want to know that your city is a great place to live, work and play. Businesses and site selectors want to know that you are a business-friendly environment that has in place business-friendly legislation, but also has the quality-of-life amenities that add to enjoyment and recreation. Finally, another position comes into play: Where is your city/community positioned for the future? The position-related “elevator speech” for South Bend starts with the research and development opportunities that are taking place at the University of Notre Dame. While we cannot put all of our eggs in the Notre Dame basket, the research and development taking place there leads to new entrepreneurial ventures that will help grow our opportunities nationally and worldwide. Notre Dame’s proximity and relationship with the Big Ten schools is a huge asset that cannot be overlooked or underestimated. The Big Ten Conference schools lead the nation and world in research dollars. Notre Dame can certainly benefit from the wealth of R and D money coming to the Midwest. This is another enormous asset that can further grow our opportunities for business development in the future. As Jeff Rea pointed out, “Our city is positioned for great things; I believe that what we have to offer, coupled with our renewed focus on education, public policy and economic development, positions our region to have great success in the future. This is a great time to have a business in Michiana.”
It sounds like this future focus on economic development is something that will never go out of style.