5th Grade Economic Development

Chloe's MarylandThree years ago, my then 5th grade daughter greeted me at the door one evening excited to tell me about a school project she had just completed. The assignment was for teams of kids to develop a plan on how to persuade people to move to one of the 50 states. My daughter, Chloe’s team had drawn the State of Maryland and were tasked with developing a promotional poster and business card to be used as part of their final persuasive class presentation. As an economic development professional, I saw this as a tremendous opportunity to connect with my 5th grader and with way too much enthusiasm I exclaimed, “No way! That is exactly what I do!” In hindsight, I should have known to lower my expectation as her response was an instantaneous eye roll followed by an under-the-breath, “really”. My uncanny ability to be “so not cool” around my kids had struck again.

After this precious father and daughter exchange, Chloe proudly shared the business card that she had created with her group.  I was impressed with the simplicity and the directness of the message, “Become rich, live safely at… Maryland.”   Based on their research, this is what her group had concluded about Maryland.  With few strokes of a #2 pencil, these brilliant 5th graders pushed on key buttons that resonate with us all.  If you moved to Maryland, you would have economic security and live in a safe environment.  Who could say no to this?!!

Chloe’s business card has hung on my office wall ever since our conversation in 2012.  It is a constant reminder of why I am an economic development professional, to make our communities an even greater place for existing residents and an undeniable option for newcomers.

It’s easy to forget the “why” as we work to meet the tight deadlines of a site consultant or delicately address a sensitive political matter.  Often our profession and the tools we use are kicked around as a political football to showcase perceived inefficiencies or abuses of government funds.  These pressures can be stressful and at times, discouraging. It is at these times when the simple genius of Chloe’s 5th grade logic helps remind me why we are in this profession.  We are not seeking to only attain economic security and safety for ourselves, but seeking to create opportunities to help our fellow Michiganders to attain this as well.  Not many professions can proudly say that.

Become rich, live safely at… Michigan!

Authored by: Steve Willobee, LEED AP, Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP), Chief Operating Officer. Steve is the Co-Chair of MEDA’s Education Committee.

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