6 Key Priorities Shape the Economic Development Agenda
Regional industry, especially homegrown industry, must be an integral stakeholder in the development of strong and effective regional economic development partnerships. It cannot be said enough. This was emphasized once again in Fourth Economy’s recent engagement with our friends from the Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota.
By far the Valley Prosperity Partnership (VPP) is one of the strongest industry-led efforts we have seen, both in terms of time and money. In addition to industry, it included two of the region’s regional economic development organizations and, oh yeah, two states. For those who have worked in regional efforts like this, you know it is no small task.
Spurred by the encouragement and investment from Forum Communications, Inc. business owner Bill Marcil, the VPP is comprised of private sector business leaders, economic developers, and college and university presidents who are collaborating and leveraging resources to develop a unified, vision for high value and sustained economic growth for all Red River Valley residents. The Red River Valley region encompasses 13 counties Eastern North Dakota and Western Minnesota including the cities of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks, Fargo and Moorhead.
This month, Fourth Economy joined the VPP Steering Committee in releasing an action-oriented economic development strategy identifying six focus areas for high value and sustained economic growth in the Red River Valley.
“Our region needs talented people, great places, sensible public policies, good ideas, and a diverse economic base. The Valley is in a position of prosperity. This action plan isn’t a response to an economic downturn; rather, it is one that seeks to build on our strengths.” said Tammy Miller, committee co-chair and CEO of Border States Electric.
“The VPP is unique for a couple of reasons. First, we believe this is the first time a Valley-wide group of this nature has formed to affect economic development. Second, the VPP is, by design, comprised of businesses, our research universities, and technical colleges. Third, our input and impact will be felt on both sides of the river,” Miller added.
Fourth Economy, in partnership with the VPP, undertook an extensive outreach effort to gather input and collect background information. Hundreds of interviews and focus groups with regional stakeholders along with hours of research culminated in the plan that aims to improve the economy up and down the Red River Valley region.
The strategic plan identifies six key areas for action:
- Workforce attraction, development and retention
- Water security and management for the Valley
- University research capacity and relevancy
- Entrepreneurial activity and output
- Infrastructure development and capital improvements
- Perceptions of the Valley
Each priority area includes detailed strategies and actions that build on the Valley’s unique assets. For instance, the Valley has industry and research strengths that are built upon in the Research and Entrepreneurship priorities, including unmanned systems (aerial and ground-based), big data (home to one of the largest Microsoft operations outside of California) and precision agriculture (crop management through unmanned and IT-based systems). In the Workforce priority, strategies and actions build upon the Valley’s unique cultural, environmental, and physical assets to target potential boomerangs and veterans.
“With each of these priorities we hope to inspire business leaders and residents throughout the Valley to engage with the VPP to turn this vision into action,” said Steve Burian VPP co-chair and CEO of AE2S. “We have worked to balance ambitious goals and vision with a realistic action plan to sustain prosperity in the Valley,” Burian added.
Fourth Economy has been fortunate to work on several economic development collaboratives in recent years. While some focus on a particular regional strength or market opportunity, the two key factors common to their success are: 1) Industry leadership (both time and money); and 2) Initiating the planning effort during times of economic strength. It is always most effective to work to sustain and manage existing growth with a thriving industry base than trying to rebuild when times are tough. With its commitment to regionalism, action-oriented thinking and deep industry engagement, the VPP offers a model for diverse cross-border engagement.
Congratulations to our friends in the Valley Prosperity Partnership on these key steps forward. We will be in touch with them going forward and hope to share their experience on a national scale.
For more information visit: www.valleyprosperitypartnership.com