Fourth Economy Consulting has turned five and has topped over 200 client engagements in that short period. And by engagements, I mean that we have had the great fortune to partner with community leaders all over the country as they work to strengthen their organizations and communities. This experience has provided me with yes you guessed it, five notable trends that I wanted to share with you.
The Livability of a Community Drives Economic Growth
Understanding the ‘livability’ of your community is the most critical thing you can do as a business owner, economic developer, government official or anyone else in a position focused on economic growth and prosperity. In our field understanding livability can take many forms from a focus on place making to understanding quality of life, to assessing art and cultural amenities, and recreational opportunities, and sustainability. As of late I am finally hearing a discussion on the most important livability lens, an understating whether a community is inclusive and provides opportunities for all citizens.
Strong Community Leaders are Pioneers
We have worked with many leaders who are truly blazing new trails in their communities. From:
- Eric Doden, formerly at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation, who led a charge to focus state resources and regional cities around improving their ‘product’. The resulting effort the Regional Cities Initiative has inspired communities throughout the state to reinvision their future and commit to enhancing their livability.
- Mayor Sherry Capello, Lebanon, PA, who is leading the charge to reinvent her community through a focus on excelling by building upon the basics (maintenance) and rallying for a future. She is leading the charge by implementing the Grow Lebanon plan.
- William Marcil, Chairman of Forum Communications, shared a vision of a Red River Valley (North Dakota and Minnesota) that started to collaborate to leverage strengths and tackle challenges. He backed that vision with a $100,000 contribution and called on his peers to support what is now the Valley Prosperity Partnership.
Capacity is an Open Question
Too often we have seen people look to focus on their community and identify needed actions only to realize that the community lacks the capacity – funding, people, organizations – to execute. As a result more communities appreciating the emphasis that we place on actionable strategies and plans that respect their available resources. As new models of impact investing and pay for success expand their reach hopefully we will all find better ways of evaluating capacity and making the needed investments to increase it early on.
Economic Diversification Through Action
Economic diversification can happen at the macro (region) level and local (company) level and a topic that is on a lot of people’s minds. We have had the honor of supporting the State of Rhode Island in a defense manufacturing sector related diversification initiative called STEAM ENGINE USA. One of the most exciting parts of our role is to lead the development of a defense sector manufacturer assessment process – called a Design Readiness Assessment. This process engages a team of domain experts to evaluate a companies strengths and weaknesses with an eye towards their ability to engage design professionals in identifying new and improved product lines for enhanced revenue opportunities.
Data is Everywhere But Who Is Interpreting It
We have spent an increasing amount of time over the past few years taking data and translating it for stakeholders. Often that translation has involved modeling future expectations as most data is ‘rear view mirror’. Often our field looks at data through a lens of what happened versus what could be. Our team has been using industry, labor, education, investor and market data to create more complex models that look ahead to address opportunities and challenges. As we move forward we hope to provide more tools for our clients to interpret their data in such a way.
What lessons have you learned or trends you have noted in the past five years? Let me know by dropping me a note.