Reset: Time to Rethink Economic Development

Today, I was reading the latest issue of Chief Executive magazine [1], and I was reminded of my prior experience working with regional, state and local economic development groups within the United States.

These organizations are typically funded by local businesses and government grants [2].

The Past: Facilities Incentives for Companies

Historically, the process of economic development primarily meant attracting companies to build new facilities or relocate existing ones to the place that was seeking new jobs. The coveted ‘corporate headquarters’ relocation was a prize that many of the groups craved.

All these groups offered incentives (e.g. business tax reductions) to entice their desired prize. What I noticed most was an apparent lack of appreciation for the difference between good top-paying jobs — and everything else that was of questionable economic value.

I witnessed incentives being offered to companies who planned to locate ‘call center’ facilities. Frankly, I was puzzled. Given the caliber of typical jobs created, why would incentives be appropriate? Was this a forward-looking investment that drives growth?

Fast forward to the current environment, and I’m now wondering how many of these economic development groups placing paid advertisements in the Chief Executive magazine are informed about the current and emerging trends in the marketplace for skilled talent.

The Future: Lifestyle Incentives for Individuals

That said, some are choosing to rethink their economic development approach, and how they communicate the inherent value of ‘living and working’ in their local community. For those who are willing to experiment, the focus has shifted to attracting skilled people at relatively little cost, rather than attracting new facilities or an existing facility relocation at any cost.

I’m reminded of this Time magazine article “How More Cities Worldwide Can Attract Remote Workers” and the forward-thinking U.S. economic development groups that are rethinking the possibilities of attracting individuals that can enhance their community.

Of course, this phenomenon isn’t just about cities, or just in the United States, as other forward-thinking countries are paying skilled people to move and essentially start over.

Moreover, some companies now offer professionals the option to work from anywhere, whether in their home office, in another region, or around the globe. A growing group of digital-skilled talent is taking the Anywhere Workplace theme to the next level.

These Digital Nomads leverage their flexible work opportunity to live in desirable tourist hotspots or tropical island destinations for months at a time. Others engage in months-long work-cations, combining periods of working and vacations.

Anywhere Worker Enablement Solutions

So, here’s another thought worthy of consideration; is it also time for chief human resource officers (CHROs) to rethink their organization’s process of new hire employee attraction, onboarding, and retention? Are they prepared for today’s skilled Anywhere Workforce?

Do they have the online worker technology infrastructure that’s purpose-built for this task? And, is their choice of a digital workspace solution equally attractive to home-based knowledge workers and mobile frontline employees?

[1] Chief Executive Magazine

[2] U.S. Economic Development Administration

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