If you look closely in the next photograph of the ribbon-cutting for the newest business in town you will find this person. He or she will most likely be on the back row behind the elected officials and the business leaders of the community. The person will tell you that the back row is the appropriate spot because it`s all part of the job to shun the spotlight and allow others to get all the credit.
That person is the local economic developer.
So what is the job of an economic developer? Stated another way, what does an economic developer do? And what skills are needed to become an economic developer? Also, what is the best educational background if one wants to become an economic developer?
To answer these questions, it would be worthwhile to define the term.
According to Dr. Ron Swager with the economic development program at the University of Southern Mississippi, economic development is “the process of creating wealth through the mobilization of human, financial, capital, physical and natural resources to generate marketable goods and services.” The role of the economic developer is to influence the process.
When we talk about creating wealth, we are talking about the wealth of the community, whether is be a municipality, a county, a region or a state. Another way of thinking about it is to say that the economic developer sells the community.
Here are some examples of the knowledge and skills needed by today`s economic development professional: