IEDC Annual Conference – Houston (Sunday Sessions)





Today is the opening day of the IEDC Conference.  I am excited to catch up with friends and learn about new developments and challenges in economic development.  My schedule today is jam packed.  While I am at the Conference, my goal is to summarize my key learnings and share them with you at the end of each day.  Hopefully you will find them interesting and ideally thought-provoking.


Economic Development Ethics Workshop

For perspective, IEDC requires 2-hours of ethics training for CEcD certification (including recertification).  In my opinion, this is an excellent step toward ensuring the profession maintains a high standard of excellence.  The speakers at this session were Tedra Cheatham (Executive Director, The Clean Air Campaign) and Barbara Johnson ( Principle, The Johnson Group).  I was particularly excited about this session given my personal interest regarding ethics in advertising and promotion.

Tedra and Barbara did a great job leading the discussion on the importance of ethics in economic development.  They shared case studies of real life situations to bring the principles to life in a way that was easy to relate to.  Here are my key take-aways.

  • Even the perception of unethical behavior can make it a challenge to attract or retain capital investment.
  • Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have a right to do and what is right to do.
  • It is a question of how you should act and what kind of person you want to be.  It is a personal matter and should impact the choices you make in different situations.
  • Top issues – confidentiality, communicating truthfully and conflict of interest.
  • Standing for doing the right thing when it is unpopular is a true test of moral character.
  • It is important to establish a personal moral compass to guide your choices.
  • The guidance IEDC provides on ethics in advertising and promotion are excellent.  There are a number of them in the Ethics Training Manual and in my opinion worth the time to review.  You can go to the IEDC website and download a copy.
  • Real ethical issues are not necessarily black and white, they are often gray.
  • Using case studies to create a conversation about how to analyze ethical challenges is a great way to illustrate the complexities in determining a course of action.

The Future of Shale Fracking and Energy Independence

Of course, my interest in this topic is directly related to my role as a founding Board member of the Nemacolin Energy Institute and my Place BrandAid Project focused on helping communities impacted by the shale energy industry avoid the boom bust cycle.  Hopefully you’ve downloaded and read my free eBook on how to create a community can develop an effective strategic plan.

The panelists were Ed Bee CEcD (Taimerica Management Company) and Dr. Susan Christopherson (Cornell University).  I had never met Ed before, but Susan and I have had some great conversations over the last 18-months. Here are my key take aways from their presentations.

  • Over the last decade, employment associated with shale energy has added roughly 200,000 jobs directly, but has also had an indirect impact on companies that supply the industry with components.
  • BLS Report indicates the average wage in the industry is $152k.
  • About 34% of the land in the US potentially has commercially viable shale plays.
  • Patent for fracking was issued in 1949.
  • Over 1,000,000 wells have been fracked since 1953.
  • LOGA (Louisiana Oil and Gas Association television) has a great video on horizontal drilling.  It is worth viewing for a basic understanding of the process.
  • There is some data suggesting air drilling (rather than using fluid) may activate natural methane production.
  • The industry jobs (high paying) tend to be clustered geographically in centers like Houston.  Local communities tend to see an increase in retail and lodging.  However, there is some evidence manufacturing can be attracted to some locations.
  • Communities tend to be worried about the costs from the industrialization of their region associated with the cumulative impact of shale energy extraction.
  • Based on survey data, communities are distrustful the neither the state nor the oil and gas industry will look after their interests.  It is of greatest concern where there is population density.
  • The shale energy industry typically  has an adverse effect on both agriculture and tourism.
  • The biggest push back on the industry has less to do with fracking and more to do with home rule.
  • There was a good interplay with different points of view around wether the financial benefit remains in the community or leaves it.  A lot of the landowners are the government, companies, and people who don’t necessarily live in the community where the leased land is.

Opening Plenary Session

The IEDC pulled together a great slate of keynote speakers made up of the Honorable Rebecca Blank (acting Secretary of Commerce US Department of Congress), the Honorable Annise D. Parker (Mayor, City of Houston Texas), and M. Ray Perryman (CEO, The Perryman Group).   Each with an amazing track record of service and performance.  Here are my personal take aways from the talks.

  • In economic development you need a plan for both the short and long run.  You can’t be exclusively short-term focused.
  • Now is the time to invest in the upgrading of infrastructure to create jobs today and make our nation more competitive for the next decade.
  • The US has a competitive advantage in manufacturing.  We want domestic firms to expand and we want FDI to increase. Our energy outlook is attractive, particularly because of domestic supplies, labor cost is becoming competitive through productivity increases, and our nation’s economy is viewed as more stable than other location options.
  • Select USA provides federal support to help make it easier for foreign direct investors find a US based location to meet their business needs.  Select USA and IEDC will continue to look for ways to collaborate to help accelerate economic growth.
  • Innovation capability/capacity and a quality workforce are key to the long-term economic success of our nation.
  • The Commerce Department announced an award to the IEDC of $1,000,000 to help the SE Region in disaster planning and recovery.
  • Houston has embraced renewable energy as well as oil and gas.  The vision is to continue to be the energy capital of the nation.
  • Based on the latest census, Houston is the most ethnically diverse city in the US.
  • Houston is outwardly focused and recognizes the great capitals around the world as its competition.  The city is focused on making infrastructure a significant competitive advantage.
  • The mantra for the city is – “Houston is open for business”.
  • Economic development at its heart is about working to optimize economic activity.
  • A goal of economic development is to help increase the size of the pie in addition to trying to increase your community’s share of the pie.  It should not be viewed as a zero sum game.
  • There are two parts to economic development – 1) create areas where people want to come and 2) and providing incentives.
  • Government shortages globally are making it harder to invest in economic development.
  • In the real world incentives are a practical reality.  Companies have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders and incentives drop to the bottom line.  But, incentives must be designed to meet an investor’s specific needs.
  • The world economy is lethargic, there are a number of legitimate things people are concerned about (eg European economic stability).  The result is about 4 times as much cash carried on company balance sheets.
  • Communities need to continue investing in development to be ready for when the money comes off the sideline and into play.  You need to be ready and capable to go from “the red zone to the end zone”.
  • The secret to success for the US is innovation.  We need to invest in education, infrastructure, R&D capability, and other things fundamental to ensuring the nation remains globally competitive.

Selling Your Community: Mastering Presentation Skills

This session was all about how to improve your ability to present information to audiences.  The speakers were Suzanne Buck (Professor, University of Houston) and Allison Larsen (Principle, Chabin Concepts), and surprise guests Janet Mathis (Executive Director of Renew Moline) and Dave Quinn CEcD (Executive Director, Bastrop Economic Development Corp) all four well qualified to speak on the subject.  I am never content with my own speaking skill, so I was hoping to pick up at least one nugget I could use to further strengthen my Tuesday panel discussion.  I’ve always found that the faster I can apply knowledge the better I retain it.  Here are a few tips I learned that I thought worth sharing.

  • There is no such thing as a perfect presentation.  There is always room for improvement.
  • Always start with what is important to the target audience.  It is all about giving them knowledge that best meets their real needs.
  • Selling your community is the face to face opportunity to  communicate your unique value proposition.  Is it relevant and unique?
  • Messages are great when they are Simple, Tangible (concrete I age that can be proven), Important (relevant), Credible and are something you can be Known for (STICK).
  • Maps are a great tool in economic development presentations.  They help provide a geographic context to the discussion.  It is particularly important when speaking with a foreign direct investor.
  • Case studies help facilitate story telling.  You get to use examples to prove your point.  There are 3 major components – situation – action -outcome.  This is similar to the CAR model I learned (context – action-results).
  • Presentations are about reporting, explaining, persuading or motivating.
  • When you think about openings and closings think about a quote, question, startling fact, situation, story, or a visual.
  • When you finish, always leave your audience on an upbeat note.
  • Based on research, non-verbal communication matters.  Often, it is not what you say, but how you say it.
  • If you don’t make direct eye contact with audience members, the perception is that you are lying.
  • Online presentations need to be short and the audience needs to be engaged.  Always practice with your technology and make certain everything works right, and always have a back-up plan.
  • People will listen and learn if it is beneficial to them.
  • If you know you have a hostile audience address it right away.  Let them know you know.


All in all a busy day, rich with learning.  I noticed attendance at the sessions was outstanding.  In the Plenary session, they actually had to bring in more chairs.  The degree of sharing was impressive.  Tomorrow is an equally busy day and I have to get my thoughts on my own presentation in shape for Tuesday.  I am psyched to find out what I will learn tomorrow about working with site selectors and the latest on international capital attraction.  I’m feeling like it was a good day.

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