Economic Development 101: What is Economic Development And How Does It Help Communities Grow?

Economic Development 101: What is Economic Development And How Does It Help Communities Grow? Main Photo

25 May 2023


Economic development improves a community’s economic well-being, wealth, and quality of life. It encompasses various activities to attract, create, and retain jobs to foster a resilient and inclusive economy. Economic development is a collaborative effort that involves working with businesses, governments, and various community stakeholders to achieve success. 

Economic Developers In Action

Many economic developers have certifications and profession-specific education and training. From varying backgrounds and specializations, economic developers provide leadership in policy-making and administering policies, programs, and projects designed to grow the economy. 

An economic developer’s ability to grow the economy lies in collaborating with businesses, governments, and community stakeholders. Often they play a central role in leveraging community resources to support economic growth. This may include working with community planning departments to expedite permits, coordinating workforce training programs with technical schools, or solving issues hindering business expansion. They may also work with the state and federal governments to secure grant funds for projects ranging from broadband expansion to workforce development initiatives. 

Economic Development Organization Defined

Economic developers typically work for an organization, such as the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation, whose sole purpose is to advance economic growth, called Economic Development Organization (EDO). Communities may have one or more EDOs, as independent organizations or part of a government entity, a public-private partnership, a chamber of commerce, or a non-profit or non-governmental organization. Funding for EDOs may come from several sources, including federal, state, and local governments and private investors/members.  

How Can An EDO Support Economic Development?

Business Retention & Expansion (BRE)

BRE programs help existing businesses survive economic difficulties and assist with expansion that creates new jobs. This area assesses the physical, geographical, financial, technological, and human resource needs of companies within the community. For example, if a local business needs infrastructure support to facilitate an expansion project, an economic developer would work to coordinate the implementation of the resources necessary to get it done.

Business Retention and Workforce Partnership Coordinator Joanne Follon heads up the Corridor’s BRE programming. She meets with businesses to learn about expansion plans and the needs of the companies in the region and connects these businesses with resources to help them succeed here.

Marketing & Attraction

EDOs develop and execute marketing & attraction campaigns to showcase their community to existing and potential businesses. The right marketing strategy can promote a community’s unique qualities, programs, and resources to both internal audiences (investors, existing companies, businesses, and community leaders) and external audiences (site selectors, outside companies, and talent to try to attract them to the region). These campaigns share the programs and successes of the EDO and help target a particular industry sector or audience to strengthen a community’s economic well-being.

Coordinator of Administration & Communication Alyssa Petersen leads the Corridor’s marketing strategy. This strategy includes sharing news and updates with the investors and leaders in the Iowa Lakes Corridor communities and coordinating and executing recruitment strategies to attract businesses and talent to the region.

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development

EDOs can support small businesses and entrepreneurs by providing access to capital, space to develop the next big product or service, or technical assistance to navigate regulatory processes.

The Corridor team provides access to various resources, including SizeUpIowaLakes, to help aspiring entrepreneurs or small business owners collect data to make informed decisions about their businesses. 

Real Estate Development

EDOs often engage in major real estate development projects, particularly industrial parks, incubators, brownfield redevelopment, and sometimes housing. Although most real estate development projects respond to market forces, economic developers’ engagement is crucial, where public sector support is the only way to ensure equitable development projects in a community. 

EDOs help businesses access the community’s public and private financial services. Economic developers can help companies by convening capital resources, hosting revolving loan funds, and providing information on local, state, and federal incentive and grant programs. 

Workforce Development

EDOs work with workforce development agencies to support a robust, resilient talent pool for existing and future businesses in their communities. They work with companies to understand their current and future talent demands, collaborate with educational institutions to translate that into training programs, and partner with workforce development agencies to create policies that support businesses and workers. 

Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation Is Here To Help Your Business Thrive

The Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation has served this community for 31 years and cares about providing opportunity and growth to the Buena Vista, Clay, Dickinson, and Emmet Counties. 

Contact the Iowa Lakes Corridor today and find a wealth of information and resources to help your business grow. Ultimately, you will contribute to the community’s success and build a better economy for Iowa and the country.