02 Sep 2014

Complexity, Marketing, and Demand in Economic Development

Anatalio Ubalde is an economic developer, entrepreneur, and inventor. He works with organizations throughout the nation to foster enhanced economic development strategies using Internet technology. His work in geographic information systems, economic development and the Internet has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, TechCrunch, and Inc. In 2009 he was named a Fellow Member of the International Economic Development Council for achieving exceptional stature in the field of economic development.

economic developmentEconomic developers can increase their value by reorienting their thinking about the role they play in facilitating business investment in their communities. Simplicity, communication, understanding, and discovery can elevate the effectiveness of economic development.


Economic development, corporate site selection, business expansions, entrepreneurship, and business assistance are complex. They have many moving parts and require comprehensive expertise to understand. A powerful way to overcome complexity is by synthesizing it and returning it as simplicity.

Site selection analysis used to be a complex process that few businesses could participate in because data gathering was difficult, making sense of the data was complicated, and putting the pieces of the process together overwhelming. Today EDOs are taking this complex process and putting powerful, but simple-to-understand real estate, demographic data, industry analysis, and geographic visualization together so anyone can understand opportunities for investing their business in the EDO’s community.


Marketing is too often the process in which economic development organizations interrupt business people with self-promotion. But the best way to stand out is to stand for something. Business people don’t want to be interrupted and they don’t care what’s in it for you. They care what’s in it for them, their employees, and the community. 

There are many ways to promote what your community stands for.  In a workshop led by Amy Holloway the attendees saw the difference between an economic developer who was trying to sell his community and the same person just talking about his passion for his community. No one got excited about the sales job but people felt excitement when he let his humanity out. The flip side of the emotional side of standing for something is how data shows what your community stands for. We live in a world of data-driven decision making so the community that effectively empower decision-makers with data for what their community is about compared to others and why that benefits the company have the advantage.


Economic developers are uniquely positioned to strengthen their relationships with businesspeople beyond marketing messages, buzzwords, politics, and information overload. By providing your unique knowledge you can foster deeper understanding and trust.

Corporate real estate professionals are talking to ED pros even later in the site selection process phases because they are confidentially doing their initial research using online resources such as the EDOs website and their own internal data. By the time contact is made with the EDpro this is the time that bringing understanding to the process is so essential.


There is no lack of supply that economic developers and communities have to offer. There is frequently an abundance of real estate, incentives, infrastructure investments, and more that communities everywhere bring to the table for any business interested in expanding into their location. Communities don’t have a supply problem; they have a demand problem. Generating demand is one of the highest value propositions for fostering economic development.

Creating demand can come from the hard and long-term work of making your community a place that businesses want to invest. This can occur through investments in education, infrastructure, and amenities. Another way to create demand is by being discovered when your community is a good match for a business as the exact time it is making an expansion or relocation decision. Too many EDOs take the shotgun approach of bombarding companies with messages about locating in their communities at times when those companies couldn’t care less. But now communities can get found through online site selection portals businesses are using to do site selection research when they actually have a project. 


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