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Economic Development Is Not for Amateurs

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

By: RDG Managing Principal Rob Radcliff

I've known Jay Garner of Garner Economics for decades.  Over that period of time I have learned many things about my good friend: he and I share a fraternal connection, both being Sigma Chi's, he is a proud West Virginia Mountaineer, he beat me to the punch on grandkids but we fight it out to see who can spoil theirs more, he's a talented musician (I'm a musician but not so talented) and a fantastic economic developer and strategist.  One thing I did not know until very recently is that he is also an author and I must say I received this latest bit of knowledge with some mixed emotions.  

You see, I too would like to write a book.  I consider myself to be a teacher in many ways and have actually carried notes for my eventual treatise with me for years.  And yet, here he comes, out of the blue, a published scholar beating me to the punch! 

Well, I decided I had to read for myself in order to determine if he can REALLY write so I plopped down on a rainy afternoon last week and digested Economic Development Is Not for Amateurs from cover to cover.  The early returns are in and I have to admit this narrative on our industry by Jay and his co-author, Ross Patten, from the City of Covington, Ky is outstanding!  In my mind it stands out for some very important reasons:

  • The message is spot on, especially in today's uncertain and unstable environment.  Economic development is not for the meek!   

  • It highlights something I have personally preached about many times: the importance of leadership in getting things done.  When asked "what is the most important factor in an economic development funding campaign" I have often said, "Leadership trumps everything else".  Jay and Ross drive home that the importance of leadership permeates all elements of economic development, more so than any other single factor.

  • It's full of nuggets and gems:

    • Lead, follow or get out of the way

    • Divisiveness kills deals

    • Government is often the great bottleneck of investment

    • Market regionally, sell locally

    • No product, no project; you can't sell from an empty wagon

    • Effective leadership = community prosperity

    • My personal favorite: control your own destiny or someone else will!

    • I was familiar with NIMBYS but learned about CAVE people -- Citizens Against Virtually Everything

  • It's an easy read!  This might be the most important point!  Give it to your board, friends, professional colleagues, staff, Mayor, Governor, etc. and tell them to read on their next flight (hhhmmmm, well maybe don't wait that long!)  or over the weekend, whenever.  I finished it in a few hours, and it was time well spent.

So, the verdict is in and I have to say Garner can spin a tail.  I encourage anyone to read this excellent tutorial on economic development in the rapidly changing landscape in which we find ourselves today.  You can find Economic Development Is Not for Amateurs HERE.

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