Edmond Economic Development Authority Pursues Growth by Helping Native Firms Grow

Article excerpt

Getting businesses to move into your community is one thing; keeping them is another. An estimated 80 percent of all jobs created come from existing firms, according to Blane, Canada Ltd., a Wheaton, Ill.-based firm that provides economic development research, planning and training.

New business attraction may seem more glamorous than business retention and expansion, but statistics don't lie, reads the company's newsletter. Work with your existing resources before searching for new ones. You may be surprised to see what you find.

The Edmond Economic Development Authority is taking that advice to heart. The EEDA is now using Blane, Canada's Synchronist Business Information System, a computer program designed to analyze the current market in the area and identify what steps are needed to support existing businesses.

With the proper information, EEDA can practice Economic Portfolio Management, a new approach touted by Blane, Canada. Think of the companies in a community as parts of an investment portfolio, reads The Missing Link: A Vision for R&D, a white paper report published by Blane, Canada in Sept. 2002. The value of the portfolio is the sum total of the value of the individual companies. An investor is constantly asking about growth potential, value, diversity, balance, acquisition options.

When practicing Economic Portfolio Management, the aim is to maximize the overall growth of the entire portfolio - in this case the economy of the community - rather than just focusing on the demands of the individual business.

Like an investor, community leadership should be asking, which are our most valuable companies? according to The Missing Link. Which are our growth companies? Which companies are stable? Which companies are in decline? Now, given that knowledge (value, growth, risk), how should the economic development organization invest their resources (incentives, loans, grants, staff time, etc.)? Should other community and private economic development resources be directed to maximize the potential of individual companies? Should the portfolio be conservatively or aggressively managed? Is the portfolio being neglected? What is the cost/consequence of a failure to act?

In the coming months, EEDA will be contacting local businesses to set up interviews to glean the information the Synchronist system requires to evaluate each company's value to the community, growth potential, risk of relocation or downsizing, overall satisfaction and employment trends. Interviewers will ask businesses about their number of employees, what skill sets they are looking for in new hires, and recent changes the companies have made in ownership, management or technology.

Synchronist also takes note of executives' comments on the community's positive and negative attributes, including the business climate, infrastructure, the quality of the work force, community planning, etc. The program is able to generate reports based on this information, organized by industry types, ZIP codes, company size and more. …