IEDC's 2016 Annual Conference in Cleveland was a huge success. And for a couple of different reasons. We saw - and connected with - many familiar faces and were able to meet a lot of new industry professionals too. We had the privilege of speaking at the conference, and our Innovate Like Apple presentation was well-received (due in part to Tom Lix's great delivery of his Cleveland Whiskey story). We hosted a fun and lively event at Hodge's, where everyone enjoyed food, drinks, and catching up in a casual and informal setting. (Thanks to all who attended!) We were able to have a lot of quality conversations with our current clients and some prospective ones too, sharing what we've been doing to help EDOs impact their communities and really make a difference. And lastly, we handed out 200 digital copies of our annual white paper that we've since been circulating via email and social media.
When we weren't busy talking, presenting, and mingling, we did find time to attend some really interesting and thought-provoking sessions. The young professionals engagements were especially beneficial to some in our group, as the discussions were relevant and applicable to those a little newer to the profession.
One of the themes we found especially fascinating was around the privatization of the profession, and how more organizations are starting to operate their EDOs like private businesses. As we saw from our white paper in 2015, approximately 70% of funding now comes from private sources, so as investors and stakeholders continue to want and need tangible ROI from dollars spent on marketing initiatives, the culture of accountability among economic developers stands to see a sharp increase. It will be imperative that EDOs continue to differentiate so they can win - and keep - investment from private funders.
Another really valuable insight we gleaned was from the Business Location Consultants Forum. What we heard really solidifies what we've been conveying to economic developers for a long time, and what we continue to advocate for in the econ dev space. And that notion is that it is important (essential even) to have an economic development toolkit that contains the following:
- A strong web presence
- Static or (better yet) interactive maps - not everyone is familiar with your community’s location, proximity, and infrastructure
- Robust social media channels - site selectors monitor social media, so revel in your wins by showing the value your community brought to a deal, who you attracted, etc.; social platforms can serve as a great introduction to site selectors
- Digital assets that contain individual contact information - nobody wants to fill out a form or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
What did you take away from the conference? We'd love to hear your thoughts.
In the mean time, if you haven't had a chance to look at our white paper, you're cordially invited to download a free copy.