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CLIENT PROFILE: Greater Portland Inc - Monique Claiborne: Profiles in Leadership

Updated: Nov 27, 2023

By RDG Principal Amy Curtis

RDG started working with Monique Claiborne and Greater Portland Inc in 2022. This engagement included both a feasibility study and a funding campaign. In this case, the feasibility study was instrumental in defining the value proposition of GPI for the region with current and potential funders and stakeholders.

Monique Claiborne, President and CEO, has created a dynamic team that generates positive opportunities for business and talent in the Portland Region. On a personal note, I was eager to chat with/virtually meet Monique as we both have a common mentor, Maureen Krauss. (Stay tuned for an interview with Maureen in the coming months.)

How and why did you decide to enter the economic development space?

The decision occurred during the recession, just after the Wall Street crash. During that time, I was living in London and saw an opportunity to bring foreign direct investment to my hometown of Detroit. That’s how I met Maureen Krauss; she gave me my first job in economic development.

Who has inspired you along the way/served as a mentor?

Maureen Krauss with the Detroit Regional Partnership. She's truly helped to inspire and mentor me along the way.

What do you see as the main challenges for economic development professionals currently?

Economic development professionals face a range of challenges in today's dynamic environment. Some of the main challenges include:

  • Global Economic Uncertainty: Economic development is impacted by global economic conditions, such as trade tensions, pandemics, and geopolitical shifts. Navigating through these uncertainties is a significant challenge.

  • Technology and Automation: The rapid advancement of technology and automation is transforming industries. Economic development professionals must help communities adapt to these changes, which may result in job displacement and require workforce upskilling.

  • Sustainability and Climate Change: Balancing economic growth with sustainability and addressing the impacts of climate change is a pressing issue. Professionals must find ways to promote sustainable development.

  • Workforce Development: Matching the local workforce's skills with the needs of businesses is an ongoing challenge. Closing the skills gap and ensuring residents have access to quality education and training programs is crucial.

  • Inclusivity and Equity: Promoting inclusivity and equity in economic development is essential. Professionals must work to ensure that economic growth benefits all community members, addressing disparities and providing equal opportunities.

What lessons have you learned along the way?

Economic development professionals often gain valuable insights through their experiences. Some common lessons learned include:

  • Collaboration is Key: Successful economic development often requires collaboration between various stakeholders, including government, businesses, educational institutions, and community organizations.

  • Data-Driven Decision Making: Data and analytics are crucial in making informed decisions. Professionals should use data to understand trends, assess impacts, and measure progress.

  • Community Engagement: Engaging with the community to understand their needs and aspirations is vital. Community support and input are often key drivers of successful economic development initiatives.

  • Patience and Persistence: Economic development can be a long-term process. Patience and persistence are necessary as some projects may take years to yield results.

What advice would you give those just starting in the economic development space or those looking to transition?

  • Build a Diverse Network: Connect with various professionals, from government officials to business leaders and community advocates. Networking can provide valuable insights and opportunities.

  • Learn Continuously: Stay updated on economic trends, policies, and best practices. Consider pursuing additional education or certifications relevant to economic development.

  • Embrace Technology: Technology plays a significant role in modern economic development. Familiarize yourself with data analysis, digital marketing, and technology tools used in the field.

  • Focus on Inclusivity: Always work towards inclusive and equitable economic development. Recognize the diverse needs of your community and ensure that benefits are shared broadly.

  • Be Patient and Persistent: Not all projects will see immediate results. Be prepared to stay committed and adjust your strategies as needed.

  • Pay attention to the market and be nimble and diverse.

  • Invest in your community and your time; invest in general.

What excites you most about your current role in economic development?

Economic development professionals are often motivated by the opportunity to make a positive impact on communities. What can be particularly exciting are successful projects that lead to job creation, improved infrastructure, and overall prosperity. The ability to drive innovation, foster collaboration, and contribute to a community's well-being is a rewarding aspect of this field. Additionally, the constantly evolving nature of economic development means there are always new challenges and opportunities to address, which can be intellectually stimulating and fulfilling.

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