Area Development
Communities across the country are clamoring to vie for corporate relocation and expansion projects. Many come to the negotiating table boasting generous incentives, but incentives alone cannot guarantee a relocation or expansion project will work out as a company hopes. To truly determine whether a community will be a good fit for an existing expansion or a new location project, corporations should require local and regional economic development organizations (EDOs) to provide community strategic plans that identify their main priorities and goals and lay out a road map for achieving them.

Community Strategic Plans Take Center Stage
With the competition for expansion and relocation projects heating up, EDOs increasingly are seeing the value of formulating community strategic plans to entice companies to consider their areas. Strategic plans show that an EDO recognizes the need to do things differently than they were done in the past — the need, in other words, to become efficient and progressive in order to compete in the global marketplace. A strategic plan should provide the foundation for a community’s realistic and cost-effective economic development efforts and reinforces its commitment to achieving and maintaining those efforts. It also is evidence of an EDO’s ability to collaborate and develop consensus to make sound fiscal decisions and enhance community image and branding.

{{RELATEDLINKS}} Expecting an EDO to have a strategic plan might not seem important to some companies, but the lack of such a plan can endanger the future of an expansion or relocation project that might have unique workforce needs. For example, incentive packages typically include clawbacks that penalize a company if it fails to live up to its job creation promises. But if a community does not have an adequate pipeline of workers, the best-intentioned business will have problems adding employees. It’s one thing for an EDO to say it will supply the workers a company needs; it’s another for the EDO to have an actual plan for doing so.

Moreover, community strategic plans can help to expedite the site selection process. EDOs usually put their strategic plans online, so a company can use weak or incompatible plans (or the absence of plans) to weed out locations without even putting out feelers to their EDOs.

What to Look for in a Community Strategic Plan
An effective strategic plan will address several essential elements of economic development, including: {{SIDEIMAGE1}} Vision for the Future
More and more EDOs are seeing the benefits of developing, implementing, and monitoring community strategic plans. Such plans provide a vision and a vehicle for creating short- and long-term economic growth, but they also provide companies pondering relocations valuable tools for evaluating potential sites.