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Transformational Benchmarks: Re-Defining Metrics for EDOs

Updated: Aug 21, 2023

Today, Mark Spandle recaps the ACCE Conference Workshop on Economic Development Metrics presented by Mac Holladay of Market Street Services and discusses new trends in metrics for economic development organizations.

A few weeks ago at the ACCE Annual Conference in Oklahoma City (Kudos by the way to the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber and ACCE for hosting a great conference) I attended a session called ACCE Economic Trends: Economic Development Metrics presented by Mac Holladay of Market Street Services, Duane O’Neill of the Greater Jackson Chamber and Jay Byers of the Greater Des Moines Partnership.

As everyone knows, metrics are the lifeblood of chambers and economic development organizations so the session was well attended to say the least.  Mac led the session and gave core examples, Jackson and Des Moines among them, of how organizations are moving away from – but still tracking – the traditional metrics of job creation, lead generation/attraction and capital investment.  Jackson, for instance, has a set of metrics that are rooted more in community improvement versus economic development, including benchmarks such as:

  1. Convert 10% of properties per year to tax roll and/or converted to green space, parks and community gardens

  2. Increase graduation rate by 20%

  3. Increase number of minority and women owned businesses by 30%

  4. Realize an agreement between region’s cities to address infrastructure.  Passage of Jackson recommendation to fund infrastructure issues

  5. Double the mileage distance of trails to connect a seamless trail

  6. Decrease outmigration of healthcare by 20%

  7. Increase in attendance at festivals and public events by 20%

  8. See flood control become a reality for the Greater Jackson area within 7 years

For those of you that read our previous blog post about BHAG’s you will immediately see the correlation between Jackson’s metrics and their Vision 2022 plan.  The Greater Jackson Chamber Partnership’s goals are somewhat unique in the sense they have gravitated to transformational benchmarks rather than the traditional measurements of jobs and capital investment.  Why?  Because their leadership has determined their community needs to transform rather than “just attract new jobs”.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership has also started tracking areas that measure  community transformation, including graduation rate, employment, population, per capita income, violent crime, property crime, airline passenger traffic and pre-k enrollment.  While the Des Moines Partnership may not individually be able to “move the needle” on any of these it does allow them to show overall community health.

These are just a few examples of organizations that are attempting major initiatives that will change the landscape of their communities forever. Many others are moving in this direction.  The trajectory of defining and measuring success is changing.

It begs the question “why are Chambers and EDOs moving in this direction?  After all, aren’t we about creating, attracting and retaining jobs so what’s wrong with measuring just those things?”   Think about your community for a moment.  What would happen if just graduation rate increased or violent crime decreased…the possibilities could be endless.   Moreover, isn’t our job more than “just creating, attracting and retaining jobs?”  Yes, that’s a fundamental component of what we do but why are we doing it?  Isn’t it because our real job is to “lift” the places we live and work?  If we accept that overall premise then doesn’t if naturally follow that the true measure of our success is the impact our job creation, attraction and retention efforts have on the community at large?

It’s an interesting discussion and in many ways transformational for the industry that we all serve.  It is also only in its beginning stages.  This conversation has a long way to go and as it develops and matures, so will the communities that we serve!

Mark Spandle is an RDG Principal and RDG’s in house research analyst.  In addition to his campaign management duties, Mark maintains RDG’s prospect management system, building prospect lists for RDG engagements and maintaining RDG’s Campaign Manager database.  He is based in Statesboro, Georgia.  You can follow Mark on Twitte r@markspandle.

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