In some communities it seems that economic developers and community developers are as different as night and day. That is no wonder given the roles that each are expected to play. But in some communities and at the state level these roles are becoming more blended as communities recognize the advantages of these groups working together.
Generally, economic developers, because of their emphasis on jobs and economy, tend to be around business leaders and organizations that are concerned with private sector employment. Community developers, because of their emphasis on serving the needs of low and moderate income persons, tend to be around social service providers and others with similar concerns. In many cases, the political philosophies of the two are far apart. And in many cases, the two groups are not in constant contact with each other about their communities’ future. As some would say, they are just cut from a different cloth. That is not the case at the state level.
The Mississippi Development Authority, formerly known as the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, has for many years placed both functions under the same umbrella. It is responsible not only for economic development, but community development as well. The result is a more cohesive and coordinated approach.
Local leaders may benefit by examining whether there is a disconnect between economic development and community development in their communities, and then finding the right combination for them. There is not a perfect model, but when the two entities do not work together the outcome is less than desirable.