Baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” That is the case with organizations or communities without a strategic plan. You may be headed in the wrong direction or just spinning your wheels. In the case of economic development strategic planning, a community without a strategic plan is like a sports team without a game plan.
It is often said that economic development is a team sport, and almost everyone in your community has a role to play. Economic development organizations, business, community, and political leaders, chambers of commerce, tourism bureaus, higher education institutions, K-12 school systems, and many other stakeholders contribute to the success of a community’s economic development. Without an economic development game plan, these various economic development players end up operating in silos or duplicating efforts. Without an economic development strategic plan, valuable time, resources, and opportunities may be squandered. A strategic plan allows for coordination and synergy between various partners that maximize each other efforts.
However, I find that many of my economic development colleagues and communities are disillusioned with their strategic plans. Many very expensive strategic plans sit on the shelf once they’re written, never to see the light of day. The fault lies not with the concept of strategic planning but with the planning process itself.
Commonly, a community either hires a consulting firm to develop a strategic plan or DIY a simple strategic plan itself. Both methods have their drawbacks. Consulting firms typically gather some community feedback, then goes away and return 6-9 months later with a strategic plan. While the strategic plan may be perfectly fine, this approach typically does not fully engage the community in the strategic plan development, and thus stakeholders are not invested in the success of the plan. Once again, I point to the fact that economic development is a team sport. Without complete community buy-in, any strategic plan is fated to fail.
The DIY method of developing a strategic plan typically starts with a retreat involving community stakeholders brainstorming various economic development strategies. The fallacy with a DIY strategic plan is most community stakeholders are unfamiliar with economic development, which is a complex interplay of economic forces. DIY strategic plans are not as comprehensive and usually not grounded in economic development research.
The Process is More Important than the Plan
An impactful and effective economic development strategic plan combines the best of both approaches: a comprehensive community engagement process with economic development research and analysis and the expertise of an experienced team of economic developers. Upsize Marketing Strategies develops strategic plans through an ongoing community engagement process that brings together various community stakeholders from public and private sectors, community, nonprofit, economic development educational, and workforce organizations – always through the lens of diversity, equity, and inclusion. The ongoing community engagement takes six months or more.
Additionally, Upsize Marketing Strategies and its partners gather economic development research and data to create a complete picture of the community’s economic ecosystem. Upsize then develops a SWOT analysis and industrial cluster analysis.
Finally, a veteran team of economic development practitioners will develop practical and feasible economic development strategies. The final strategic plan is created with qualitative and quantitative data, feedback, and real-world expertise. What sets Upsize Marketing Strategies plans apart is we don’t stop there. We believe action planning is a crucial step that many consultant-created and DIY plans miss. Upsize will develop “living” action plans, designed to evolve and includes tactics, timelines, and resources.
Led by a Certified Economic Developer with 30 years of experience in economic development, marketing, branding, and communications, Upsize Marketing Strategies provides turn-key services to help the community execute its strategic plans. Learn why Upsize Marketing Strategies develop your next strategic plan>>>