The industry of economic development influences the quality of life in every area, but residents often have questions about the theories and practices of economic developers.
In this FAQ, we outline the absolute basics of our field—and we hope to clarify some terms that economic developers often use when discussing their craft.
We want to see our workforce trained in high-demand skills, because a well-trained workforce attracts new companies. We want to attract new companies into the area, because the new dollars that circulate through our local economy (1) assist land developers in preparing new sites (which also attract companies), and (2) distribute wealth among area residents, enriching their quality of life. If our residents remain happy here--if our workers remain happy here--then we better retain companies in our region, encouraging residents entering the workforce to seek advanced education and technical training!
An economic developer builds relationships with educators, land developers, business and industry leaders, and government officials. An economic developer acts as a resource to everyone invested in developing a business community. We utilize strategic planning and proactive insight to prepare for the rising and falling cycles of our economy, and we do everything within our power to make our area a premier place to live and do business.
"If economic development is defined as the process that improves the standard of living of the people of a community, region, or state, then the role of the economic development organization is to positively influence that process." - Dr. David R. Kolzow, Managing for Excellence--Outcome-Based Performance for the Economic Development Organization
An RFP--or, "request-for-proposal"--is a notice from an out-of-state or out-of-parish company interested in relocating their operations or expanding their operations into a new location. We can receive RFPs from Louisiana Economic Development and Greater New Orleans, Inc. on behalf of companies, or we can receive them directly from site selectors.
An RFP usually requires us to supply detailed information about St. Tammany, our workforce, our demographics, our infrastructure, our business climate, and our available sites and buildings.
We maintain a publicly-searchable, parish-wide database of available locations, and we encourage local land developers to list their sites and buildings. When answering RFPs from Louisiana Economic Development, we can only supply information about sites listed in the LED database.
In the field of economic development, the term "new businesses" refers to companies that have relocated, expanded, or established operations within an area, having not been based in that area previously. We view everything through the lens of the territory we serve, so when we say "new businesses," we mean companies that have relocated, expanded, or established new operations in St. Tammany Parish.
A business may have been operating out-of-state for 80 years, but if the company builds a new distribution facility in our parish, then we call that company "new"!
If business attraction focuses on recruiting new businesses, business retention focuses on growing our "existing businesses," the industry term for companies already established in our area.
Studies show that "existing businesses" create more than half of all new jobs locally and nationally.
To encourage our existing businesses to grow and expand, we've developed a well-respected business retention and expansion program. Throughout the year, we conduct on-site visits with area businesses, industries, and economic drivers for our parish. We assess companies' needs and facilitate problem resolution where possible, acting as a liaison and advocate for our business community.
We also rely on our partnerships with various regional organizations to provide for our existing businesses. The Louisiana Small Business Development Center (LSBDC) at Southeastern Louisiana University, Manufacturing Extension Partnership of Louisiana (MEPOL), and Louisiana Procurement Technical Assistance Center (LA PTAC) all offer business counseling through our office.
We're working hard to attract new businesses into our state and our parish--and so are all the surrounding states and regions. In order to remain competitive, secure a strong economy, and retain our existing jobs, we have to ensure that our companies continue to thrive in our parish.
Business retention helps our existing businesses thrive.
A project is considered active until (1) we confirm that the business has chosen another location, (2) we confirm that the business has eliminated our parish from its list, or (3) the company commits to locate, expand, or establish operations in our parish.
When we talk about completed projects, we'll usually refer to three separate measurements:
- "New jobs," meaning the net new jobs created by the company's project
- "Retained jobs," meaning the jobs secured in St. Tammany by the company's project
- "Capital expenditure," regularly abbreviated as CAPEX, meaning the financial investment the company has committed to make in pursuance of its new or growing operations
Thanks to STEDF's efforts promoting St. Tammany as a business destination in 2016, 6 companies committed to locate or grow their operations within the parish. These companies agreed to invest $28 million in St. Tammany, retaining 389 jobs and committing to create 197 new jobs.
Site selectors research communities across the globe when determining where to build new facilities. With so many options, the search often becomes a process of elimination rather than selection. Communities with readily-available site information often win projects over other communities. Certified Sites offer more speed-to-market than other sites.
Certified Sites are development-ready, or "shovel-ready." They've completed a strenuous pre-qualification process, ensuring Louisiana's Certified Sites are primed for a speedy groundbreaking. Developers value Certified Sites for their considerable documentation and extensive pre-screening, which mitigate the risks and costs associated with land development.
We work diligently with local land developers to assist them in certifying their sites, promoting maximum exposure to the largest clientele of businesses nationwide.
According to Louisiana Economic Development (LED), "LED Certified Sites are development-ready industrial sites. LED certification is granted after an extensive application process and exhaustive review. The benefits of certification include official acknowledgement of a site's suitability and readiness and improved success in the site selection process. The program's rigorous review process is conducted by an independent, third-party engineering firm."
For St. Tammany to attract and retain businesses with local, regional and global impacts, we must anticipate the needs of these companies and prepare our area to accommodate them.
At the St. Tammany Economic Development Foundation (STEDF), our chief tools for business attraction and retention are site development and workforce development. While site development and site availability typically play the biggest role in business attraction, workforce development serves as the glue between attraction and retention, addressing the needs of companies interested in relocating to St. Tammany and of companies already enjoying success here.
Through our workforce development initiatives, we assess progress and advancements within our target industries and work with local and regional partners to respond, predicting the best course of action to situate our community for prosperity.
Our annual Workforce Development Series supports all these efforts, acting as the base from which we facilitate our outreach. This series brings our business leaders, community representatives and higher education partners together to share and analyze workforce development information. In consideration of the many different paths that lead from education to the labor force, we collaborate with partners who train our future workers all across the K-12, collegiate, professional development pipeline.
Each gathering focuses on one topic to stimulate the dialogue. [In 2015], sessions focused on themes ranging from healthcare and biosciences, to construction and coastal restoration, to manufacturing. [In 2016], we focus[ed] on maritime, information technology and STEM education, among others.
Analysts offer projections for the future of our parish. Businesses share what they expect and require of the workforce. Educators use that information to drive curriculum in classrooms, to recruit new students.
We have determined that businesses seek out problem solvers. Employers want a highly-skilled, dedicated and well-educated workforce equipped with critical thinking and communication skills. Students and job-seekers expect inclusive opportunities for their diverse community and a corporate commitment to their continued professional development.
However, the industry of economic development and the concept of economic development address different issues and require different degrees of training and experience.
Economic developers may take any number of paths to employment in the industry.
Colleges and universities offer exceptional academic programs for prospective economic developers, such as the Master of Science in Economic Development offered by the University of Southern Mississippi. Students must complete 30 hours of graduate-level coursework in economic development theory and practices then pass a comprehensive exam to receive the degree.
Louisiana Economic Development (LED) and the Louisiana Industrial Development Executives Association (LIDEA) offer the Certified Louisiana Economic Developer (CLED) program through Louisiana State University. Content of the program is tailored specifically to the state of Louisiana. This program requires candidates to complete eleven classes in economic development and conduct a research project in order to obtain the state certification.
The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) offers a number of training courses in business retention and expansion, business attraction, real estate development and reuse, finance, and marketing. IEDC also offers the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) certification, a rigorous training and certification program completed by the highest level of economic development practitioners internationally.
Many economic developers seeking CEcD certifications complete the required coursework through the University of Oklahoma's Economic Development Institute (OU EDI), the premier economic development program in the nation. Program participants must complete 117 course hours, at which point IEDC administers an exam to candidates seeking certification.
STEDF staff members have completed coursework through each of these entities, collecting several certifications. Four staff members have completed coursework for the CLED. Two have completed coursework through OU EDI. Two have earned an M.S. in economic development. Even our communications & research specialist has taken the basic economic development course--and we remain committed to the continued professional development and training of our entire staff.