What is Economic Development, Exactly?

by Karl Dorshimer
Director, Business Development
Lansing Economic Area Partnership
Board Member, Michigan Economic Developers Association

Having been an Economic Developer for over 20 years, I still struggle sometimes to explain what Economic Development is. It has been even more difficult since the profession itself has been changing over time and broadening in scope. More recently, Economic Development, and by association Economic Developers, have encountered criticism questioning the legitimacy of what they do and whether it is really in the public’s best interest. Budget shortfalls and the misunderstanding of how Economic Development Incentives work have led to attempts to cut funding for Economic Development Programs.

MEDA and the MEDA Advocacy Committee have stepped up to define and defend the field and the good work that Economic Development Professionals do throughout Michigan. MEDA is unified in describing Economic Development as attracting and growing businesses, creating and retaining jobs, and making our communities a better place to live. In a nutshell Economic Development creates prosperity for the citizens of our communities. Furthermore, Economic Developers are professionals within a community that use various tools to stimulate economic growth while maximizing the best interests of the entire community and finding mutually beneficial solutions for all parties concerned. Economic Developers help local officials and businesses to work together for community progress.

Attracting and growing businesses strengthens our economy providing locally produced goods and services. Strong businesses pay taxes that go for vital services such as schools, roads, fire and police. Businesses also provide good jobs that put money in people’s pockets and allow for a higher quality of life. Economic Development has a major impact on the places where we live, work and play. Putting vacant or abandoned buildings and land back into productive use is a major function of economic development. This helps keep businesses located in urban areas where sewer, water and other services are already present.

Economic development retains and attracts talented people. Communities that provide quality jobs and great places to live and work are a magnet for folks of all ages. As a result, these places have a strong future. Economic development also fosters the entrepreneurial spirit that resides in our creative and ambitious citizens. By providing access to ideas, investment and expert advice new companies can be created to help assure Michigan’s economy stays innovative and diverse.

So the next time that you have the opportunity to speak up on behalf of Economic Development or Economic Developers, go ahead and jump into the conversation with the confidence that investing in economic development is good for everyone.

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