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Regional Welcome Center for New Business?
June 9, 2014 - Ernest Hohmeyer
As a region, we seem to be working together on tourism.
Should we do the same with business development?
The Tupper and Saranac Lake Chambers are already working on greater cooperation. This includes business services and education for local businesses.
What about the world of recruiting new businesses to come to the region? If we can agree to work together to fight for the mighty tourism dollar, can we combine resources to develop a top notch business development effort?
I was on a U.S. Airways flight this week and was meandering through their June in-flight magazine. I was struck by an article in their “Industry Spotlight” section “Rising in the East – Find out why Eastern North Carolina is a Magnet for Growth” – so I did.
Like us but more in a macro sense, this region also includes, according to author Lauren Eberle, several “metropolitan and micropolitan” areas as part of the “NCEast Alliance.” While we can’t match their infrastructure, labor and diversity of economy, there are some applicable ideas including:
• Targeting industries niches, in this case “the booming life sciences sector” • A “network of entrepreneurial resources” • Dedicated areas for targeted development
In a related article “Let’s Go to Greenville – Southern Hospitality and Business Success Define this Growing City” had some descriptive phrases that reminded me of us. According to writer Jennifer Gravely, Greenville “defines itself as a mix of ‘front-porch friendly and business-world smart…” Gravely states “Greenville’s biggest point of pride is its charming atmosphere…”
One of the photos they use by the way is of paddlers…
Do the same?
Once again we are small in so many ways. We don’t possess the infrastructure, amenities and labor pool of our North Country neighbors outside of the Park.
We also don’t have the resources in terms of economic development staffing and the important additional funding for marketing and recruiting.
Due to our many political boundaries we try. We have various community development offices, numerous planning units, several chambers and our county industrial development programs. Some are staffed full-time, others are volunteer and in some cases paid professionals wear 20 different hats.
Where Do I Go?
I was thinking about several community meetings when it was not even clear where businesses interested in coming to the area should go to. Responses ranged from (not in any particular order):
• Town offices • Village offices • Chamber(s) • Real estate agents • Community development offices • Local economic development organizations • County industrial development offices • Banks • Regional business development organizations • The State’s regional economic development councils.
Despite the fact, most communicate with one another and are good about referrals, is this the most effective approach?
But let’s go one step further.
What about being proactive in recruiting businesses? We are doing things now. Can we do more as a region? We also are interested in “target industries.” For example, there have been several job creating industries multiple communities have been interested in. These include:
• Biotech • Tourism • Arts • Wellness
There is a sense here though that tourism development resources and expertise can be better matched as a region and to be a part of an “Adirondack brand.”
What about a business development “brand”?
Like the community tourism web sites that are linked to promote our individual communities but share common platforms, funding and expertise, can we create a regional “Welcome Center for New Business”?
• A virtual business center with very easy road maps on who to contact at the community level. • Combine funding to develop a top-notch marketing program • Create a one-stop shop of coordinated resources • A place where economic data – so important in business location decisions – can be easily found • A responsive and coordinated follow-up initiative • A healthy volunteer base of “ambassadors” for each targeted industry.
Then go even one step further.
Links & Saving $
Formalize this regional economic development effort so that it can be incorporated into the county programs and then the state’s initiatives.
And then we could be really innovative (you didn’t think I was going to stop there did you?)…
How about looking at more regional approaches to planning where we could trade APA and local building densities among our villages and towns to spur different kinds of economic development appropriate to each community?
A Regional Community
From an Adirondack Park perspective, we may need to focus more on regions than on communities. Is there simply sufficient infrastructure and labor to do every kind of development in every community or should we pool our resources? Should the goal be to create regional networks like the NCEast Alliance?
There are so many new ways to lure businesses to our communities. Like tourism, it is complicated, requires expertise and resources. If we want to grow this effort, we may need to think about what other communities are doing. They are much larger than us, span many more municipal jurisdictions with far more resources and yet, THEY see a need to work together.
So I end with a question (okay I ask lots of questions). If there were no municipal borders, would the Tri-lakes region be a natural business center?
“Regional Welcome Center for New Business?
A first step may be to follow what was done the tourism side and create a council. Just like the local Tourism Council this is not ANOTHER organization but an informal roundtable of stakeholders both private and public. Perhaps the same collaboration, inventory of resources and marketing cooperation can be established.
Instead of all of us reinventing the job wheel, we can combine resources - to develop OTHER TOOLS we need - like incubator buildings, incentives and job training?
It may be the only we can play this competitive game in a sustainable fashion - and not put the burden on individual community taxpayers.
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