AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PRIMER FOR SMALL TOWN MAYORS

November 12, 2015

My latest column as printed in the Mississippi Business Journal

AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PRIMER FOR SMALL TOWN MAYORS

They come in all sizes and shapes and from a wide variety of backgrounds. Almost all of them are serving in their posts in a part-time capacity. Many, if not most, have had little training in the fundamentals and nuances of economic development. They are the mayors of small towns in Mississippi and other states across America.

In spite of their lack of formal preparation for the duties of their offices there are quite a few opportunities and resources to them once they take their oaths. The Mississippi Municipal League offers a wide variety of training options and resource materials. Universities, community colleges, state agencies and nonprofit organizations are available for technical assistance and advice.

The following is a basic economic development primer for mayors of small towns. It is actually an outline. Each of these 26 topics are themselves worthy of full-blown seminars. The purpose here is to give the reader a taste of what its like to deal with some of the subjects that small town mayors encounter on a regular basis. Note that it is presented in second person.

A is for Asset-based economic development. Identify the assets in your community that you can capitalize on.

B is for Plan B. The best leaders are the ones who can manage Plan B. Although planning is important, things do not always go as planned.

C is for CDBG, the Community Development Block Grant program.

D is for Decisions, which tend to be data-driven or values-driven.

E is for Economy. What drives your town’s economy?

F is for Followers. You are the leader; who’s following you – and what do they want?

G is for Goals, the mileposts along the highway to achieving the vision. Goals are SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

H is for Heroes. Who is going to step forward when you need it the most?

I is for Incentives. Economic development prospects are driven by location, workforce and incentives.

J is for Jobs. Economic development is the process of increasing the wealth in your town through creation, recruitment and retention of jobs.

K is for Keystone, the central, topmost stone of an arch (an essential part).

L is for Legacy. A lifetime of achievement is often reduced to one incident or program. What will be your legacy?

M is for Meetings, especially productive meetings – with your board, with citizens, with developers and with prospects. The importance of the agenda.

N is for Numbers, or measurements, that will quantify your town’s progress. Data should be determined early in your administration and tracked on a regular basis.

O is for Observation. Stop looking for the answers you expect to find. As Yogi Berra said, “You can learn a lot by watching.”

P is for People, or demographics. Know and understand your people.

Q is for Quality. If anything is worth doing, it is worth doing well.

R is for Responsibility. Most strategic plans fail because there is no accountability or responsibility. Hold people accountable.

S is for Story. What is your town’s story, and how can you capitalize on it?

T is for Taxes, especially tax incentives.

U is for Unique. What makes your town unique?

V is for Vision – your vision and your town’s vision.

W is for World View. How does globalization affect your town?

X is for X-Ray. Have some outside expert look “into” you town.

Y is for Youth, the future of your town. What do they think about the future? Do you have a Mayor’s Youth Council?

Z is for Zeal, the synonym for passion. One big difference in towns that succeed and those that do not is passionate leadership.

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Phil Hardwick is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist and owner of Hardwick & Associates, LLC, which provides strategic planning facilitation and leadership training services. His email is phil@philhardwick. com and he’s on the web at http://www.philhardwick.com.

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