21 Jan 2015

An Economic Development Majority Changes Everything

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.

Majorities matter.


When an election creates a new majority of your elected officials that supports economic development, you know you’ll have backing to achieve your goals. When the majority of the buildings of a blighted Main Street are renovated, the rest of the block is more likely to become renovated. When the majority of property owners decide they want to improve their business district, they can vote in the economic policies to fund their revitalization. When the majority of businesses in your community decide to work toward a common goal, their vision has a strong chance at becoming a reality.


Think Bigger in Economic Development

An economic development majority changes your life.


Majorities also matter in the practices of economic developers. Because when economic development programs are put in place and are adopted by the majority of economic developers, organizations, or areas of the country, those strategies switch from being a competitive advantage for the few that are doing them to being a competitive disadvantage for the few that are not doing them. For the majority of the economic development population implementing these programs these strategies and programs are no longer “nice-to-have,” they have reached the tipping point in which they are “required-to-have” because they are expected. They are the “new normal.” You must implement these programs just to keep up.


Think of all the strategies and programs that are required in economic development offices: business attraction; business retention and expansion; real estate development; project finance; marketing. And think of all the strategies that are crossing over into the mainstream of economic development: entrepreneurial support, incubators, and accelerators; targeted industries and clusters; main street/downtown programs; technology-led economic development; economic gardening and business intelligence; talent recruitment; digital economic development; workforce development; women, minority, and veteran-focused business assistance; foreign direct investment (already at the core of EDOs outside of the USA); neighborhood and community development.


An economic development majority recently happened and, as some revolutions that become inevitabilities do, the exact moment of transition to a mainstream practice happened quietly, yet pervasively.  It was an evolution that occurred over years, with accelerated adoption as the years progressed.


Back in 2008, the book Economic Development Marketing: Past and Present recognized the growing influence of the Internet on the profession of economic development. It noted the relatively novel use of GIS-powered site selection assistance websites that included property, demographic, business, and geographic search and analysis. At that time, 33% of economic developers surveyed used this technology.  In 2013, a follow up research book showed that number had grown to 44% and economic developers indicated the majority of them would be implementing this online software by 2017.


The trend toward the majority of economic developers implementing this program happened even faster than expected. This January, GIS Planning conducted analysis of the geographic market coverage of its ZoomProspector Enterprise GIS site selection analysis software and today, 58% of the United States population is now served with its technology.


That’s right: the majority of our nation - nearly 6 out of every 10 Americans’ communities - is served with online GIS site selection services to help companies analyze and choose areas for business investment using GIS Planning’s software.


When an economic development majority happens, it changes your life (whether you are party of the majority or not). The advantage goes to the majority and the disadvantage goes to those left out.  


In the case of online site selection analysis, the majority has embraced GIS Planning’s ZoomProspector Enterprise technology as the industry standard. More people use it, more people are familiar with it, more people know how to use it, more people are trained on it, and more people experience success with it. And because it has these benefits, there are network effects that will reinforce these advantages into the future.


Software majorities are powerful because adopting the most popular technology offers a consistently proven advantage. And once something reaches the tipping point of most people using it, the network power of that software grows as even more people adopt it. For example, you’re probably creating your documents on Microsoft Word.  You probably create spreadsheets using Microsoft Excel. You probably search the Internet on Google. If you bid online, you probably use eBay. If you use social networks, you probably have an account on Facebook. If you’ve made an online purchase you’ve probably used Amazon.


Now that GIS Planning has become the software that serves the majority of America, we plan to leverage this market position to make our economic development clients even more successful.


In the coming months we will launch new initiatives, features, and products that take advantage of this winning market share position, and which will deliver even more value to our clients. In the longer term, we have even more exciting initiatives in current development which will transform the practice of digital economic development, and provide an exceptional competitive advantage to the economic developers we serve.


It is an exciting time to be working in economic development and an exciting time to be working at GIS Planning. Our new position serving the majority of Americans is a tremendous responsibility, which we embrace.  It furthers our dedication and commitment to deliver the most advanced technology serving the economic development profession and those economic developers that are committed to achieving their maximum opportunity for success.

We look forward to continuing this exciting and important journey with you.


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