Attract Top Talent By Focusing On Enabling Their American Dream

Ed Burghard

“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others.”

Lewis Carol

Dr. Greg Smith (Xavier University) delivered a presentation about the American Dream at the IEDC Annual Conference in Philadelphia.  In preparation for the presentation, he asked a national sample of residents of the United States to rate several statements about the American Dream.  The purpose was to get insight into how important the American Dream is in their lives.  I thought you would find the results interesting.



Statement – “I believe elected officials should be evaluated on how well their policies and programs help folks achieve their American Dream.”

Agree – 64%

Indifferent – 22%

Disagree – 14%

My Comment – I think these data clearly indicate residents believe it is very appropriate to hold elected officials accountable for making it easier to achieve their American Dream.  I have already published a 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report and plan on publishing a 2013 American Dream State Ranking Report (targeted for publication in February 2014).  In the 2013 Report, I will compare year-over-year performance.  The expectation is that Gubernatorial Administration policies and programs should improve the State scores if they are in fact better enabling residents to achieve their American Dream.

Statement – “It is important to me that community leaders focus on making decisions that better enable my American Dream.”

Agree – 62%

Indifferent – 22%

Disagree – 16%

My Comment – I am working with Xavier University to publish a 2012 American Dream City Report.  This will be an exciting addition to the State Report and will allow you to see how residents indirectly evaluate Mayoral Administration policy and program impact on their ability to achieve the American Dream.  It will also allow us an opportunity to see how different (or similar) city performance is to State performance in enabling residents to achieve the American Dream, and where those differences are.

Statement – “As community leaders plan for the economic development of a region, I believe they should focus most on the ______________ of people living in that region.”

Income – 23%

Health – 15%

Quality of Life – 62%

Comment – Even though quality of life tends to be an over used term, it is clear residents desire to have their lives improved by the actions of both political and economic development activities.  They want to live in communities where their well-being is a priority.

Statement – “Would you consider relocating to a community where it is easier to achieve the American Dream?”

Yes – 64%

No – 36%

Comment – I found this the most exciting finding.  People are willing to move to locations that better enable achievement of their American Dream.  I am excited because I believe the next two decades is going to be a competition for top talent.  Communities that focus on designing and deploying strategies to overcome hurdles residents face in achieving their American Dream will be best positioned to be magnet communities that attract the best and brightest talent in the world.  If people are willing to move to your community, companies will find it easier to backfill employment gaps created by retiring baby boomers and find the skilled talent required to fill newly created positions.  I believe if communities cannot become magnets for top talent, then companies will have no choice but to relocate to locations that can provide access to skilled labor (or seek to fill the need through immigrants).  In fairness, I understand I am evangelistic on this point.  But, I believe I am right.

Statement – “Would you prefer …”

62% – Giving companies incentives to move to your community to create jobs.

38% – Your local government directly investing in you community to make it more competitive.

Comment – I was admittedly a little baffled by this response.  However, I think it suggests two things.  First, job attraction, retention and expansion is, and will continue to be an important focus of our profession.  Even though we know neither economic development organizations nor elected officials create jobs … employers do.  In fact, jobs and benefits are important dimensions of the Economic sub-index of the American Dream Composite Index.  Consequently focusing on optimizing the ADCI score requires attention to job availability for residents.  Second, I think the question may have interpreted by respondents as community improvement equals increased local taxes and people are fed-up with the amount of tax they are paying.  Of course, I have no way of really knowing what residents were thinking when they responded to this particular question.  Having said that, the fact that nearly 4 out of 10 residents want their community improved so it is more competitive should not be dismissed.  That is a meaningful number of people in your community.


I hope you found Dr. Smith’s data intriguing.  I also hope you will take the time to read my previous posts on how to use the ADCI data set to help you deign and deploy strategic development plans for your community.

In the coming months, I will be advocating the need to put residents at the center of your community’s strategic planning process.  By doing so, I believe you will provide the best service to companies doing business in your community.  It is a topic I will be exploring in-depth and sharing what I learn.

I will also be advocating our profession reinvent itself.  My vision is the economic development profession holds itself accountable for facilitating the strategic planning and deployment process for their communities.  This is not in lieu of the role we currently play.  It is in addition to.  Doing so will ensure economic development professionals have a seat at the table for every important decision made in the community and will allow us to create very strong relationships with senior executives.  I encourage you to join the discussion as it rolls out.

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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