Do this, and we’ll change the game . . . .
What do you do when you’re asked to develop an economic development strategy for a region that already enjoys tremendous success? You ask one question: What could we do even better? Then, you listen. Compile ideas. Set them out again, and confirm. Refine. Ask about priorities. Find the game changers.
That’s where we’ve been for the past ten months, developing the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) for Region J – the 7 counties in the region assigned to the Triangle J Council of Governments – Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Lee, Moore, Orange and Wake. As part of the Research Triangle Region, we had a great place to start – Industry cluster analysis? Check. Regional marketing plan? Check. Regional branding? Check.
Building the rest of the plan was the challenge. With four main components to cover – business recruitment and retention, infrastructure development, community development and work force development – it meant bringing everyone to the table, starting the conversation, keeping the momentum and reading the tea leaves – what does this all mean?
The final CEDS includes four goals, 21 objectives, 37 strategies and 133 actions – so, where do we start? How do we make progress over the plan’s five-year horizon? Enter the Game Changers.
We asked a group of leaders in business, economic development, education and government from across the region to prioritize 11 strategic objectives, which were drawn from 16 focus groups conducted over the summer. Can action on any of these be deferred for now? What’s important now, but not as important as others? Where are the key priorities? And are there any true game changers here?
It wasn’t easy to sort out, because just about everything mentioned is important – otherwise, the ideas wouldn’t have come this far. But real game changers? As in, “these are the things we’re willing to rally around, to bring the focus on, to put our time and resources behind, because we are convinced they will be worth it” – those are the game changers we were looking for. And we found them:
Support, promote and improve the development of skilled workers who are prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation from high school, two-year certification programs or full degree programs.
Acknowledge and address the need for improved early education as a necessary element of a successful workforce.
Should anyone be surprised that this region, known for its “tees, trees and PhDs” would set these as the game changers? Maybe not, but if we set our minds to it, we would definitely change the game – in our favor. My money says we are just the region that can make it so.
For more about NC Tomorrow and to see the full CEDS for our region, go to http://www.nctomorrow.org/triangle-j-council-of-governments/.
Author: Marla Dorrel, Public Relations/Member Services Specialist, Triangle J Council of Governments