IEDC 2013 Annual Meeting Day #1 Notes

Ed BurghardWow, Day #1 was jam packed. I got to reconnect with a number of economic development thought leaders.  The conversations were informative and it is great to hear people are doing well.  I also got to attend a few of the sessions and moderate a lunch discussion that featured a presentation by Dr. Greg Smith (Xavier University) co-creator of the American Dream Composite Index.  Attendees at the lunch session was +70% higher than last year.  Not that I am competitive, but it is great to both set a new performance benchmark and to see so many economic development professionals exposed to the ADCI research.

As in previous years, I thought I’d share my notes with you.  Hopefully you will read something that you find new and interesting.  Even if you attend the Conference, you may find I captured a thought or two that you missed.  And while I will leave it up to you, if you are required to submit a learning report from attending the Conference, you might be able to repurpose my notes to make writing that report a little easier.


Transforming Your City Into a Magnet for Global Talent

I was really interested in this session because I have been advocating that the economic development profession needs to focus more on making communities a magnet for top talent as a way to 1) enable residents to better achieve their American Dream, and 2) help companies in their community have better access to the skilled labor they need to backfill a a crisis level of openings due to baby boomer retirements.

Overall, the speakers shared some success models for reapplication consideration.  My big take-away is that with a little bit of thought, it will not be hard for communities to create effective strategies and action plans capable of achieving the goal of becoming a magnet for top talent.  I always love it when I can leave a session more hopeful than when I entered it.

The ConnectorProgram -An Innovation in Immigrant Retention – Fred Morely, Greater Halifax Partnership

  • Do market research to identify barriers.
  • Connect a newcomer to the right contact to help them assimilate.
  • It is not what you know, it’s who you know.
  • A lot of communities are hard to penetrate for outsiders.
  • Identify connectors within your community.
  • Halifax Connector Program – Get a business volunteer to match with an immigrant and then provide referrals moving forward. Funded by business. Connectors were recruited from Companies. Businesses easily stepped up. Idea is to have a cup of coffee with immigrant and then refer to 3 more people in your network.
  • 695 connectors, 523 immigrants, over 200 job placements
  • Companies like it (particularly smaller companies) like it because they can get access to real talent.
  • Judged very successful. Other communities have reapplied the concept Successfully as well.

Peter Paul – Maytree Foundation

  • Canada immigrant unemployment is 2x the rate for Canadian born.
  • We view immigration as a federal issue when the reality it is the local experience that matters. Local leadership needs to own this issue.
  • Question – Why are we wasting the resource of an educated immigrant population?
  • Mentoring (similar to connector) – connecting people within the same profession.
  • Internships
  • Professional Immigrants network
  • Public Awareness
  • Inter-governmental Roundtable
  • There is a lot that can be done at the local level and the word gets back to potential immigrants overseas. This creates a draw for your community.
  • Key is to solution focused. Involve newcomers in solution development to ensure your solution is aimed at the right problem.
  • Important to humanize the immigrant.
  • Use existing infrastructure whenever possible.
  • Find a social funder, don’t rely on government.
  • Focus on ideas and solutions and people will help.
  • Stay singularly focused.
  • Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

Simon Millcock – Director Economic Development Australia

  • Port Wakefield leveraged diversity friendliness as a competitive advantage to attract top talent.
  • Regionalism is an effective way to cost share.

ImageDefining Issues Luncheon: Helping Your Community Achieve The American Dream

It was my absolute pleasure to introduce Dr. Greg Smith (Xavier University), co-creator of the ADCI research. Those of you who know me, know I am evangelistic about the need for the economic development profession to reinvent itself.  I advocate two things.  First, we put residents at the center of strategic decisions we make for our community.  This sets up the need to measure performance based on improved ADCI scores.  The second is I believe our profession should stand up and be held accountable for facilitating community strategic plan design and deployment.  That doesn’t mean EDOs author the strategic plan.  But it means we provide the facilitation and connector skills to ensure a smooth and effective process and then do the heavy lifting in the deployment stage to ensure organizations are following through on their commitments and any problems are identified and dealt with before they become a crisis.  For many EDOs, this will be a new skill set to bring on-board.  But, if we accept accountability it will help us deliver increased and visible value to our communities.  By focusing on better enabling residents to achieve their American Dream we will make better strategic choices and will provide a better service to the companies doing business in our communities.

By the way, if you want me to speak locally on the topic of using the ADCI data in strategic planning, just drop me an email (  If I can’t do it face-to-face, maybe we could arrange a video conference.  My goal is to make as many economic development professionals and community leaders aware of this data set as possible.

  • The American Dream is a compilation of many individual dreams.
  • The survey is run monthly with 1,000 respondents.  It is comprised of 139 statements.  The cohort is a nationally representative sample.
  • The five sub-indexes are – economic, wellness, societal, diversity and environment.
  • The ADCI score has been slowly improving over the 27 moths the data has been collected.
  • The data are being used in the private sector to better understand consumer sentiment, to predict jobless numbers, and predict GDP trends.
  • Dr. Smith presented resident feedback on a special set of questions asked specifically for the Conference.
    • 64% believe elected officials should be evaluated on how well their policies and programs help folks achieve their American Dream.
    • 62% agree it is important community leaders focus on making decisions that better enable achievement of the American Dream.
    • 62% believe community leaders should focus most on quality of life when planning for economic development of a region.
    • 64% would consider relocating to a community where it is easier to achieve the American Dream.
  • The future for the ADCI research is exciting.  Work is underway on a few important initiatives.
    • The Xavier/dunnhumby strategic partnership is official and has started.  dunnhumby is a globally recognized big data firm and brings the capability to increase the number of  monthly respondents  to the survey as well as additional analytical capabilities.
    • A short survey of 20 questions is being validated.  This survey can be used by communities to get a quick read on their overall ADCI score.  However, it won’t provide insight into the sub-index or dimension scores.
    • Exploration is underway to create a global version of the study.  It will be modified for cultural differences and (obviously won’t be called the American Dream).
    • The 2013 State Ranking Report will be published around February 2014.  We will be able to look at whether State performance is improving or declining.
    • A 2013 MSA Ranking Report will be published around February 2014.  This will be the first look at the data on an MSA level.
    • Evaluation of a snapshot study of State ADCI performance is under consideration.

I am clearly biased, but the audience stayed after the official close of the session to ask questions, so I believe the presentation was very well received.

If you haven’t taken the time to read my posts about the ADCI study, please do so.  Be assured though that this project is picking up momentum and gaining national attention.  And, of course, I will continue to beat the American Dream drum in both my blog and public presentations.

Best Practices in Regionalism: Working Across Borders

Blueprint Roanoke/Blacksburg – Erik Pages PhD EntreWorks

  • 3 year contract
  • High focus, measurable impacts that keep private sector involved.
  • Pay as you go strategy.
  • All efforts are led by part time volunteers (big players in the community).
  • Pros – few turf wars, flexible management and funding strategy, results oriented and metric driven, easy to access business expertise, raising money has not been hard because you gave CEOs asking CEOs to contribute.
  • Cons – funding uncertainties, limited back office support, challenges to engage non business partners, project heavy, hard to get public and media attention.
  • Definitely has reapplication potential, but sufficient funding is required, you need clear project goals and need very clear goals, and expectations need to be realistic, drive for an early success.

TechBelt Ohio – Eric Planey Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber

  • Assets based technology development agency.
  • Not another organization competed for a limited funding pool.
  • Collaboration to compete for projects.
  • Two state partnership.
  • Together the region is more competitive, specifically seek out projects that are bigger than either state can do alone.
  • Help groups to do more than they could have done on their own.
  • Have a broader asset based technology driven agenda. Take on the challenge a piece at a time.
  • Organizations need to commit time and resources so no one organization is involved in everything.
  • Create multiple contacts in organizations to Ensure a broad base of collaboration.
  • Took awhile to get momentum, need patience in implementing this model.
  • Key was recognition that organizations were getting something they couldn’t get on their own.
  • Successes build confidence.
  • Regions don’t have to be defined geographically.
  • Partner organizations contribute to the partnership and the partnership contracts with 4th Economy to manage the process/portfolio.

Portugal Case Study – Rui Boavista Marques AICEP Portugal Global Trade & Investment Agency

  • Networking is a key skill.
  • Cost competitiveness and top talent is important, formed pert reshape with MIT and Carnegie Mellon for example to ensure top talent availability.
  • Golden Visa (500,000 euro investment or create 10 jobs) has been a helpful tool.
  • Cross border partnerships are challenging due to language barriers and public policy differences.

General Advice

  • Smart regions create regional and flexible capacity.
  • Setting appropriate expectations up front provides degrees of freedom.
  • Low dollars and minimal bureaucracy, pay as you go.
  • A visionary helps, if one doesn’t arise you need to appoint one. It should be a credible public face.
  • Stakeholder involvement is key. It takes work to keep everybody on the same page.
  • You need flexible, cooperative versus directive leadership.
  • Agree up front what areas can be collaborated on. Get the tough discussions on the table.
  • Media has not been a problem or help.
  • Regions should be defined based on what your focus is, don’t get hung up by geography. Let the assets drive the definition.
  • Win:Win solutions need to be the goal and you need to be transparent on what they are.
  • Think in terms of building bridges and creating partnerships to create exciting capabilities.


I hope you find this reporting a useful service.  I’d love to get your feedback.  If you attended the same session as I did and have some insights I missed, please add them in a comment.  The more complete the notes are, the more helpful they will be.

Also, if you are attending the IEDC Conference and have already bought Sara Dunnigan a coffee, thank you!  If you haven’t had the chance there is still Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

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