Your community development efforts in the knowledge-based economy of the new century must focus on more than highways, rail spurs, water lines, sewer systems and the like.
This isn’t your father’s 20th century!
“Health care, education, the arts, recreation and economic opportunity are among the myriad factors that influence a community’s quality of life,” says Robert Pittman, a community development specialist with Janus Economics of Atlanta.
“Community improvement does not happen by accident. It happens when local citizens plan and work together cooperatively and inclusively.
Through research and experience, we are gaining a better understanding of what facilitates community and economic development.
They’re often used but sometimes misunderstood terms.”
Pittman says economic development is commonly regarded as “creating jobs in a community through recruiting firms and the facilitation of business start-ups.
A more holistic definition of economic development would include raising the standard of living and quality of life for all residents through higher-skilled jobs and diversifying the local economy in a sustainable manner.
Community development, on the other hand, is a broader field that encompasses economic development.
The outcomes of community development include:
• improved infrastructure,
• better health care,
• lower crime rates,
• improved education and other advancements.
“The process of community development occurs when residents address problems by planning and acting in a unified fashion to improve the community,” Pittman says.
“The ability of a community to successfully undertake the process of community development is often called social capacity.
Successful communities constantly work to improve their social capacity — a process often referred to as capacity building.”
If you’re not successful in community development, it will be much more difficult to achieve success in economic development.
“Economic development involves carefully planning and executing programs to recruit new firms, working with existing local firms in retention and expansion and facilitating business start-ups.
In addition, community development creates better communities that will attract and grow businesses.
Without a good product to sell, it is hard to be successful in economic development.”
When I worked as one of the two presidential appointees at the Delta Regional Authority, we came up with a comprehensive strategic development plan for the 252 counties and parishes we served in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Tennessee.
The plan represented a departure from traditional economic development models. We wanted to be creative in our approach to revitalizing the Delta, so we came up with a community development document.
Has your community come up with a vision for the future that will allow its people and businesses to flourish?
Do you have prioritized goals, strategies and actions that will provide focus to your efforts?
If not, you’re falling behind.