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Economic Development and Key Success Factors

A community in California desires to recruit new businesses but finds that the cost of doing business in the community is too high. The strategy fails.

A community in Arkansas desires to capitalize on the growth of the renewable energy sector, but finds that they do not have proximity to energy resources. The strategy fails.

A small town in northern New York State wants to promote itself as a destination tourism attraction but has no organization or promotional budget. The strategy fails.

Community leaders in a Texas community want to advance business development ideas but find opposition within their own community. The strategy fails.

What is happening in every case? The key success factors for economic development are not in place to implement the specific strategy desired by the community.

How can American communities align their vision with reality? What are all of the opportunities that American communities have to improve their economic condition and overall quality of life?

These are the issues that are described in a groundbreaking new economic development book, Building Communities: 25 Strategies to Advance America.

It his upcoming book, Building Communities, author and economic development specialist Brian Cole presents the concept of 85 key success factors for economic development.

“Key success factors are conditions or abilities possessed—or not possessed—by communities in order to successfully implement one or more economic development strategy,” explains Cole. “Knowing whether or not you possess a comparative advantage with respect to theses key success factors is absolutely essential in order to successfully implement economic development efforts.”

Cole outlines the 85 key success factors in seven categories: assets, capital, expertise, government, infrastructure, labor, and location.

Key success factors may be very specific to strategies (the availability of energy resources for an energy development strategy) or can be very generic to many strategies (the availability and quality of a local labor force).

Key success factors can also relate to the availability of funding (financing for businesses or membership dues for local development organizations), the expertise of local economic development staff, the attitude and capability of local government, the availability of quality infrastructure and land, and the location of communities.

Cole has established a computer-based formula that weights each of the 85 key success factors relative to their importance with one or more of the 25 economic development strategies.

Economic development practitioners and civic leaders can take the “key success factor test” which challenges them to identify the relative comparative advantage (or disadvantage) of each of the 85 key success factors compared to competitive communities.

Community leaders will identify each of the key success factors on a scale from ‘0’ (substantial comparative disadvantage) to ‘4’ (substantial comparative advantage). The Building Communities formula then prioritizes the 25 strategies based upon the unique assets of communities.

“The Building Communities approach is much more objective and comprehensive than any other economic development strategic planning approach in America today,” said Cole. “Now is the time to be very strategic about envisioning and enacting the future of American communities. Building Communities is here to help."


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