Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Caroline Joy and I am the Director of Communications for Atlas Advertising. I joined Atlas late last summer and have been busy the last six months trying to shorten the learning curve and soak up as much as I can about the world of economic development marketing. One step in that process was attending the Annual IEDC (International Economic Development Council) Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida just this past week. This is the story of my inaugural IEDC Conference...
Don’t get me wrong -- I’ve been to a few conferences in my lifetime – just not IEDC, or any economic development conference, for that matter. My first task: make a mental checklist of the must-do’s for any conference attendee:
- Bring lots of business cards (check)
- Dress in layers – (check - conference rooms have their own climate – cold, colder -- or occasionally stuffy)
- Bring comfortable shoes and/or band-aids (check – flats may not be as flattering as heels, but they are definitely smarter)
Next, I had a pretty good idea of what to expect for the four days: sessions, speakers, roundtables, receptions –the usual activities. We did drinks with clients, dinner with clients, coffees with clients, lunch with clients. We connected with people we work with regularly, people we have worked with in the past, and people we would love to work with going forward.
I heard typical business buzzwords like lean management, project management and continuous performance improvement. I also picked up a few new phrases -- industry engaged cluster initiative being one of them. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue yet, but I’m working on it.
We discussed the challenges of ED: budget cuts, access to capital and available labor. We discussed ED programs: BRE, FDI, EZ’s and a lot more acronyms. And we engaged in debates on provocative subjects like incentives, metrics and social media.
All in all, it was a very successful conference:
- Got to experience a warm locale away from the Colorado winter (always a bonus)
- Consumed my weight in coffee and protein bars
- Walked about 5 miles a day – just from my room to the conference center
More importantly though – I made in-person connections that you just can’t make over a phone call or through an email. I shook hands with some of the best in the business. I sat face-to-face and listened to those who are in the ED “trenches” doing the work everyday. And I soaked up as much as I could about this industry that I find not only fascinating, but incredibly friendly as well.
This is a group of people who are proud and passionate about their work. Could describe any practitioner in any industry, right? But what I found to be a common theme running through the entire attendee list is a sense of optimism. A sense of “we’ve made it through some of the roughest times, and good times are ahead.” Despite the challenges ED professionals may be facing -- be it budgets or legislative roadblocks -- they are looking forward in 2013, and looking for the opportunities for their communities.
It’s what they do best.