Nationally, regional economics has been popular for decades. The Kansas City Area Development Council, often referred to as the top regional EDO in the nation, was created in 1971 and currently represents 18 counties and 50 major cities in both Kansas and Missouri.
The premise for regional economic development is fairly straight forward. Companies considering expansion don’t think in terms of zip codes. Rather, they consider regional factors like talent availability, wages, and proximity to customers. They are largely agnostic when it comes to where within a region they locate. Moreover, regional economic development is likely more efficient, helping to deter neighboring communities from competing against one another and duplicating services. There is a financial incentive as well. Pooling resources to generate greater returns on smaller investments helps preserve scarce public resources. Corporate expansion projects create jobs, generate wages, and produce tax revenues that benefit entire regions. It only makes sense that efforts to attract these projects should be regional by nature.
Unfortunately, regionalism is harder to embrace than it is to understand. Often marred by politics and parochial interests, regional economic development is an easy target for individuals with a “what have you done for me lately” mindset. For regional economic development to work, it requires the support of leaders who not only recognize the far-reaching impact of individual projects but also exhibit the courage to champion a “rising tide lifts all boats” vision of the future.
Regional economic development is not an us versus-them thing, it’s an us-and-them thing, and therefore demands trust and collaboration and prioritizing results over credit seeking headlines.
When a region has solid leadership, it will produce sound regional economics. When a region has poor leadership, the effort will likely die on the vine. Fortunately, the Aerotropolis region, in Southeasern Michigan is comprised of strong leaders whose commitment to regional economic development has enabled the
Aerotropolis Development Corporation to help close $422 million in corporate expansion projects since the start of 2017.
While many factors enable an organization’s success, leadership is probably most important. As the fall season concludes and we approach the thanksgiving holiday, I am reminded of how fortunate the Aerotropolis region is to be served by strong development-driven leaders. The Huron Township LDFA has joined the Aerotropolis this year.
Content provided by: Robert Luce is the executive director of the Detroit Region Aerotropolis Development Corporation, a four-community, two-county public-private partnership, driving corporate expansion and new investment around Detroit Metropolitan and Willow Run Airports. He is responsible for the strategic development and day-to-day operations of the organization.