LCIC: Thinking beyond bordersWritten by Matt Sattler | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Late in 2007, the Lucas County Improvement Corporation (LCIC), along with our regional economic development partners convened the first Meta-Plan. Much has been written about the goals, mission and vision the Meta-Plan hopes to inspire for our region. The board and staff at the LCIC appreciate our inclusion in the process and thank Toledo Free Press for its continuing coverage of this important regional event. Your commitment to growing our local economy is commendable.
As the LCIC enters our second full year of existence, we remain committed to the cultivation of new opportunities for wealth and job creation in Lucas County. But we understand that at its core, economic development is not simply about getting bigger; it is about getting better. That is an important distinction. Therefore, as economic development practitioners we must not get caught up in a numbers game. Comprehensive and successful strategies are not focused solely on generating jobs.
More importantly, effective strategies seek to improve the region — through higher wages, increased job security, improved opportunities for job growth and an enhanced quality of life. That is why the LCIC has developed a long-term strategy for community improvement. We aim to support and encourage the development of human capital as the primary tool for business retention, expansion and attraction.
Our vision is to establish a sustainable economic development environment based on our region’s competitive assets and a highly skilled, well-trained and educated work force. In order for this vision to become reality in Northwest Ohio, three important steps must take place.
First, we must obtain regional buy-in from the political and private sectors. For any economic development strategy to be sustainable, all interested parties must embrace the process and goals. Gaining acceptance beyond our political borders is crucial because economic regions do not mirror political boundaries.
Economic regions mirror labor and housing markets, which requires an obligation to look beyond our borders. Whether this means nurturing growth opportunities in solar energy or cultivating existing strengths in engineering or logistics, the region must collectively agree upon our goals, mission and execution.
Patience is also important for long-term success. Our regional leadership must understand that this is a long-term process. Short-term solutions and objectives have failed our region for too long. Policy makers need to understand that returns on these economic development investments may be years in the making. Pursuing new innovative techniques in research or production does not follow the timeline of election cycles; they often take a decade or longer. In order for the region’s economy to thrive in the long run, we must move beyond the era of immediacy.
Finally, for our region to flourish, we must collectively do the hard work of identifying our core capabilities and strengths. As the Meta-Plan demonstrates, collectively we are in the process of determining the region’s comparative advantages. In other words, what do we do here better than everyone else? Answering this question honestly is the key to our economic future.
Too often we aim to duplicate the success of other regions. A strategy based on duplication dooms the region to failure, guarantees a poor starting position and ignores our local competitive advantages.
Focusing internally is often challenging; it requires an admission of weaknesses and an honest assessment of strengths. The alternative has proven to be an unproductive path. The leaders who will chart the region’s course back to greatness must possess an intimate knowledge of our local situation. The path to our economic revitalization is paved by local wisdom and informed creativity.
As we start this new year, we enter an exciting and challenging time for our regional economic development agencies. The Meta-Plan was an exceptional first step in establishing our common vision and mission. Now, we are united like never before. Our agencies, our elected leadership and the entire Northwest Ohio community has accepted the challenge of promoting a common vision for economic success. Only together can we accomplish economic greatness.
Matt Sattler, MPA, MUPDD, is economic development specialist for LCIC.