2013 Workforce Boardroom Conference

Ed Burghard“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965);

Giving Back the Chmura Way

I was recently a speaker at the 2013 Workforce Boardroom Conference held in Richmond, Virginia.  Chmura Economics & Analytics sponsored the Conference.  The Chmura team specializes in providing clients economic research and applied solutions.  Their services range from economic impact studies to regional SWOT analyses.  Chmura also helps businesses find the ideal location for capital investment.  The wide range of services provides the Chmura team with unique insights into economic development from both sides of the negotiating table.


Equally (if not more) important, the Chmura staff I met at the Conference struck me as good people who truly care about providing a value service.  It was obvious in the caring way they spoke about helping solve their client’s challenges and in their support of this educational conference.  I am a big fan of companies that invest time and energy in providing quality professional education.

My talk was about the need for the economic development profession to adopt and be held accountable for the mission of enabling residents in their community (region or state) to more easily achieve their American Dream.  It is a talk I have started giving since publication of the 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report.

I followed two excellent speakers on the agenda.  Marge Connelly set the stage for the conference theme of “Illuminate to Innovate”.  Marge is a former financial services executive.  She has held senior roles with Capital One, Wachovia Securities and Barclays.  Marge made a compelling case that insight drives innovation.  I particularly liked the examples Marge shared that helped the audience better understand that innovation isn’t a synonym for technology. You can be innovative in other ways (e.g. process innovation, marketing innovation, etc.).

Jay Doherty, co-leader of Mercer’s Workforce Sciences Institute followed.  Jay caught the audience’s attention with the opening statement “I hate to tell you, but, what you do doesn’t matter.”  Jay shared his real world insights into how site selection decisions are made.  His information was based on Mercer’s years of experience supporting their client’s workforce development needs.  My big take-away from Jay’s presentation is that the quality of a community’s labor pool is extremely important today and only growing in importance for tomorrow’s site selection decisions.

Speaking third is always risky, because you never know if the speakers ahead of you are going to support or refute the points you want to communicate.  At this Conference, I think I was extremely fortunate.

Marge’s point about thinking of innovation in a broader context than simply technology, set up the argument that the economic development profession should have an open mind to being innovative in the selection of a performance measure.  It allowed me to make the case that measuring progress in enabling residents to more easily achieve their American Dream, rather than simply continuing to measure year-over-year job growth could be thought about as an innovation worth consideration.

Jay’s opening statement afforded me the opportunity to challenge the audience to consider reinventing the profession’s mission.  I suggested economic development professionals need to shift strategic focus from company attraction, retention and expansion to helping companies get access to skilled labor by working to transform their community a magnet for top talent.  I argued, the way for a community to become a magnet is to design and deploy strategies that enable residents to more readily achieve their American Dream.

My Talk

It was great presenting in Virginia, because the state placed #5 nationally in the 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report.  It is always nice when you can highlight success.  But, obviously not every state is in as good a position as Virginia.  In fact, my own state of Ohio has a number of opportunities to work against in order to better enable Ohioans to achieve their American Dream.

For perspective, the basic message flow of my presentation is:

  • Economic Development professionals (nor politicians) do not create jobs.
  • Companies are more interested in economic development professionals helping them backfill existing and forecasted openings from retirements with skilled labor than helping them to create new jobs.  One reason is that for the first time in our national history, more people are leaving the workforce than entering it.  If a company can’t get access to skilled labor to backfill open jobs, it will either be forced to relocate to where the labor pool is or go out of business.
  • Being able to more easily achieve their American Dream is important to people.
  • CEOs want to know how the residents in communities/states where they have business operation feel about their ability to achieve their American Dream.  And, CEOs are interested in using the information to help them make a better final site selection decision.
  • Xavier University has quantified the American Dream, and these data can be leveraged by the economic development profession to help community leaders make more impactful investment choices when designing the community’s strategic plan.

In each presentation I share state level data and describe how to effectively use Xavier University’s data in the strategic planning process.  The Chmura team has indicated all presentations given at the Conference will be made available on their company website.  My presentation will be included.

If you get a chance, check out Chmura Economics & Analytics.  It is always a smart management practice to be familiar with quality resources.  If you happen to be attending the IEDC Conference in Philadelphia, you might make an opportunity to have a coffee with one of the Chmura staff.  I am willing to wager you will walk away from the engagement feeling better informed about how site selection decisions are made.  That is a pretty good ROI for the price of a cup of coffee.

Also, if you get are attending the IEDC Conference, please connect with me.  I’d love to hear your ideas on how I can provide an even better StrengtheningBrandAmerica.com experience to you.  And, of course, I’d love the opportunity to answer your questions about how to best use Xavier University’s American Dream data.


When I was at P&G, we would often limit attendance at new conferences to a single person and based on their feedback would determine if it made sense for more to attend the next year.  We called it “sending a canary down the mine shaft”.  The role was to experience the conference and make a recommendation regarding value.

Admittedly, I didn’t get to attend the full 2013 Workforce Boardroom Conference.  But, i did get an opportunity to see several presentations including one by Martin Scaglione, CEO & Co-Founder of VIRIDIS about the use of data mining in curriculum development; a lunch keynote from David Trebing, General Manager from Daimler, who spoke about how his company thinks about site selection; and Wayne Gearey Jr., Senior VP from Jones Lange LaSalle, who provided insights into site selection from their work with clients.  And, there were many more presentations I didn’t get to see.  But, based on my observations, this is definitely a Conference I would recommend registering for in 2014.  It will be time well invested.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

Read About My Journey To Learn More About The American Dream

American Dream Case Study Series

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

North Carolina versus Texas

Ohio versus Michigan

How Easy Is It To Achieve The American Dream In Your State?

To view the complete set of State rankings based on the ADCI and five explanatory sub-indexes, simply click this button

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