Chamber News

Creating an effective economic strategy
Chairman's Message June 2015
Published: Sunday, June 7, 2015
By: Gregg Bexten

Creating an effective economic strategy

"The driving force behind any effective economic strategy is talented people.  A community's ability to attract and retain top talent is the defining issue of the creative age."  Richard Florida

What is a vibrant community?  How can we identify what makes a community vibrant?  Are vibrant communities those that are thriving or also those that face substantial challenges? 

Webster defines vibrant as “vigorous, lively, and vital.”  But what does that mean for our community? 

Those are questions the Chamber Board, along with our Economic Development partners, have been asking as we work together to develop a new strategic plan. 

One thing we know for certain –  we are dealing with an ever-changing world and an ever-changing economic climate.  If we continue to do “business as usual” without adapting to our changing environment, then we may not survive.  We must have a common vision for the future and set a strategy for getting there.

Since the beginning of the year, the Chamber Board has been evaluating and measuring the current economic development activities.  Board members, along with City Council members and County Commissioners, were asked to rank the 60 priorities to narrow the list to 20.  Some of the activities were clear choices as “Top 20”; however, others were rated very differently by the group and will serve as key discussion points in developing our strategy.

 In an effort to become better informed as to the current state of the economy in Jefferson City and Cole County, and to be better educated on economic development trends and practices, the ED Team scheduled 6 meetings with guest speakers who are sharing their expertise with us.  To date, we have met with former Governor Bob Holden and Mike Downing, Director, MO Department of Economic Development. 

I’d like to share with you some of the points shared by Mike Downing.  

Our local economy is fairly stable, mostly due to state government, but Downing also shared with us some warning signs such as aging/retiring state workers whose jobs may not be replaced, possible reduction in non-tech manufacturing, and an increase in Jefferson City workers who live in Columbia rather than in Jefferson City.

  • The fastest-growing companies are in technology & professional services
  • There is a growing need for higher skilled young talent, mostly in STEM
  • 60% of new jobs in the 21st century will require STEM skills possessed by only 20% of the current workforce
  • This talent FIRST wants to live in a "cool" area!!!

Of particular interest to me was the fact that there is a “New Economic Development Playbook”.  Historically, ED strategy has concentrated on job creation through business attraction and retention.  The “new” strategy is to make attracting and developing talented people in your community your top ED priority!  

He noted that 60% of new jobs in the 21st century will require STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) skills possessed by only 20% of the current workforce.  This is a staggering statistic.  AND – according to Confluence Denver, “For today’s top talent, the job market is only one thing to consider when choosing where to live.  They also want a vibrant city to plug into, a creative place where they can network with other smart people, and a dynamic place where they can find their next job.”  In fact, 75% of a “Live First, Work Second” survey said that finding a “cool city” was more important to them than finding a good job. 

These facts represent a huge shift in how we need to approach economic development, and elevate the importance of focusing on “quality of place” and “talent” as major components in our strategic plan.  We cannot underestimate the value of a vibrant community, not only for our current residents, but also for the future.

We have a wonderful community, and thanks to the efforts of many people, I see our community becoming more and more vibrant each day.  As we develop our strategic plan in order to ensure our community’s vibrancy, I look forward to sharing more thoughts with you in this column.  And, as always, please feel free to contact me or President Randy Allen with any of your thoughts and ideas!  

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