What Real-World Economic Development Success Stories Can We Share?

ribbon cutting representing economic development success

Last Updated: January 29, 2022

Economic development success stories are commonplace in flourishing cities and regions. Many other cities, rural areas and small towns, and entire regions of the world linger behind. So what we are asking is for you to share your successes so that others can learn. What's working right now for you? What lessons have your learned from your experiences in both the Great Recession and the coronavirus pandemic?  If you are beating the odds in an area where loss of manufacturing or mining jobs has led to population loss and income decline, how are you doing it?

Using the form at the bottom of the page, give us some good paragraphs, just informal and blog style, about what has happened in your city or town recently. If we publish your story, as we will if it is understandable to others, you will have a web page that can be used in social media or other publicity.

What are the transferable lessons that we can learn from your city or area? Sometimes economic development is just dumb luck, but it is much more likely that determined, sustained effort at some point in the past and continuing into the present has been necessary. So what should we know about the successful job creation ventures?

In a still sometimes perplexing economy, often businesses have been willing to invest in new jobs, but the workers simply are unwilling to return to or enter the workforce. Having tasted the positive family benefits of working from home or just staying at home, a large segment of the population is rebelling against working conditions that subvert the good things in life. How has your community addressed helping employers find quality workers in the face of pandemic fears, early retirements, and moms and dads unwilling to participate in the labor force?

Other long-range trends also are shifting economic realities for many communities. Automation, robots, and online shopping are reducing the number of workers needed in sectors such as manufacturing, wholesale, and retail. Driverless vehicles threaten the many jobs provided for people who drive trucks, taxis, and busses. In a surprising number of places, the largest single occupation is that of driver. So we predict that automation and technology will make job growth challenging and continue to frustrate people who lack the skills currently in demand.

More importantly for this particular website, these long-range trends result in substantial hardships for the communities that lose jobs and present many challenges when new businesses such as massive order fulfillment warehouses begin to dominate the local job market and bring in ugliness on a whole new scale. If your community is on the "winning" or "losing" end of this ongoing story, please tell us about how you have coped and turned your negatives into community development assets. (If you are skeptical about that last sentence, you may want to read our page about asset-based community development.)

Other areas have suffered mightily because international trading partners can provide needed goods more economically than domestic producers. While business usually seeks and arrives at rational solutions, the impact of dislocations on communities can be severe.  Tell us how you are surviving and thriving. If you are in a community that will benefit from some of the recent conversation about bringing some vital industries, such as perhaps computer chips, back home, please tell us the story of how you managed to attract the attention of corporations seeking more domestic production of their products.

In times such as these, we suspect that economic development success stories will emphasize some combination of new collaborations, homegrown businesses that don't rely on luxury spending, appropriate levels of government financial incentives if genuinely necessary, taking advantage of existing designations of disadvantaged areas (such as Promise Zones in the U.S.), and careful and imaginative pursuit of community-based solutions for business problems faced by major employers.

Perhaps a significant industry in your community moved to employee ownership. How has this made a difference in the entire community?

If you are in a more rural area isolated from major cities, how have you been able to leverage the technology that allows working from anywhere into new prosperity? Have you promoted yourselves as an agricultural or tourism hub? Have you collaborated with a university, hospital, or your major employer to spin off other businesses that are raising the level of prosperity for your community? Have you taken advantage of your timber or other natural resources, and if so, what are the keys to the success of those industries? 

Often economic development success stories are really the stories of a great man or woman pushing a strong agenda or a creative enterprise of their own. If that is true in your community, how would you describe that person and their contribution? Can other communities learn from how you supported or rebuffed that person as they came to the forefront? Who is behind the scenes working for your community's wealth?

Below you'll find a form where you can enter some narrative about what you have learned, keeping details of specific investments as vague as you wish. You also can send up to four photographs, which would be a nice but not essential addition to this category. If you feel timid about telling the story, forward this page to the people and organizations who have been close to the action.

This site is rich with economic development concepts and good sense, as opposed to all the hype generally associated with this specialty. Let's keep it that way as we try to focus on practical tips for new economic realities in U.S., Europe, and the world.

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