“Community Leaders Speak” is a series of writings prompted by the discussions during the IC2 Regional XLR8 Program in which Rush is an active participant.
Traditionally, Economic Development Corporations (EDCs) have tried to control information going out to the local public on their activities until it is appropriate to publically disclose that information. Control of information can be important, especially when the EDC has signed a non-disclosure agreement with a prospective business considering a location in town. Disclosing early information on a prospect’s investigation of a site is a sure way to cause trouble for the prospect and have our community lose the prospective business.
But when a community has no idea what work the EDC is engaged in, that community is likely to have complaints about public dollars spent for or by an EDC. Some time ago in Marshall, we had people asking us “What is the EDC doing and why?” and “By the way–why haven’t you fixed the sidewalk in my block?”
The Marshall EDC has worked hard to increase communication with city leadership and the general public about what we are allowed to do, what we are not allowed to do, and what we are doing that can have long-term positive impacts for the city.
A Type A* EDC like ours can accomplish a great deal that local citizens may be unaware of. We can help an important local small business deal with a critical need—and sometimes get that business assistance in as little as a week. We can provide detailed information on the community’s educational, workforce, and training assets that large businesses need to take advantage of. We can help facilitate public-private partnerships, because our funds only go so far. We can help develop a mentality in the community that it is okay to grow and that our city has some great opportunities to embrace.
Recently I spent some time on an activity that was mostly invisible to anyone outside my office—gathering and analyzing a large amount of detailed data on the costs and pay-offs of attending Texas public higher-ed institutions. The resulting take
–away—that people attending colleges like our own Texas State Technical College-Marshall can, with minimal investment, embark on relatively well-paid careers—is something I can share with both our community and with large employers thinking about locating in Marshall.
Our communication efforts have paid off. We’re getting more accolades than complaints, and we have had positive receptions at “town halls” designed to bring out our activities and proposed initiatives. It’s important to note, though, that communicating and educating those within our city is something we need to work at constantly. I encourage all EDC leaders to be looking all the time for ways to spread the word about the good work you are doing.
*Note: The [Texas] Development Corporation Act of 1979 gives cities the ability to finance new and expanded business enterprises in their local communities through economic development corporations (EDCs). Type A and Type B EDCs have different guidelines for projects they can undertake with public funds. See https://comptroller.texas.gov/economy/local/type-ab/ for details.
Community Leaders Speak is a series of writings prompted by the discussions during IC2 Regional XLR8 Program which convenes 150 leaders from 58 communities across all regions of Texas, September – October 2020. As a part of the IC2 REGIONAL ECONOMIC RECOVERY INITIATIVE, Regional XLR8 is a new type of “accelerator” that helps communities rethink recovery, take strategic action, and build resilience. During this intensive 6 week program, leaders are actively engaged in full & regional group discussions around human-centered approaches.