At the October 2021 NADO Annual Training Conference, Bob Isaacson from the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) had the opportunity to discuss state and local EDD alignment and collaboration with about 23 individuals (generally representing EDDs). The discussion was fueled by a live survey; the survey results and subsequent discussion are below:
Survey Results and Discussion
1 – Does your state fund your local development district?
- About a 50/50 split although few are general funding with other funded for specific tasks
- Kentucky matches any funding received by EDDs
- The Iowa Council of Governments (COGs) receives state funding
- Although many attendees noted they receive some funding for specific services, most do not receive any general appropriation or funding
- Some states had general funding, but most did not. The ones that did were generally created through state legislation
2 – How would you rate the alignment of your CEDS with the state’s economic development strategy?
- About 35 percent indicated poor alignment; about 65 percent said fair or less
- General theme was that the states don’t know about EDDs and don’t respect what they can do
- Attendees noted that when EDDs are included, it’s just lip service and no buy-in to EDD perspectives
- Colorado noted that they collaborate with state
- Idaho has state-funded staff working in EDDs, but they aren’t collaborating – just in doing a single job
- States develop plans top-down rather than bottom-up – not inclusive
- State plans are often not transparent or politically motivated and/or change with each governor
- State plans often don’t cover all factors present in CEDS – housing and workforce, for example
3 – Did your EDD collaborate with your state on any EDA grant applications in 2021?
- 59 percent indicated “yes”; 41 percent reported “no”
4 – How would you rate the collaboration between your economic development district and state economic development department?
- 30 percent reported poor collaboration with 71 percent reporting fair or worse
- EDA “encourages” collaboration between state and EDDs – should be required
- Many participants noted that the alignment is poor/fair and when they are given seat at the table their suggestions are rarely included in action steps.
- Colorado EDDs refer businesses to the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP); would like SBA to steer some federal STEP dollars to substate organizations
- Several EDDs noted they work with state on business attraction/recruitment
- How many state leaders read CEDS?
- Challenge with state leader engagement is that not all areas are represented by an EDD
- EDRs can assist with state leadership engagement
- To really understand EDDs, important to visit some on the ground.
- Some states are relying on EDDs for COVID relief – could be a good model to follow
5 – What barriers prevent or limit collaboration?
- The survey respondents indicated poor communication (8%), state doesn’t have a plan (15%), resource constraints (8%), all the above (31%), N/A or other (38%)
- States view EDD involvement as sometimes just lip service
Task Discussion Responses
Task 1 – Are there any examples of state-local collaboration on international engagement strategies within your community or elsewhere?
- Many participants noted that their EDD have been providing international engagement (e.g., imports, exports, FDI) for many years but there is minimal collaboration with state.
- International engagement is baked into EDD activities so sometimes not called out separately
Task 2 – Do you have the necessary tools and resources to develop informed strategies on issues such as workforce talent development, supply chain vulnerabilities, reshoring, etc.?
- EDDs believed that they had the tools to develop informed strategies on variety of service areas. but do not have adequate resources to provide the assistance to clients. They must prioritize services and assistance.
Task 3 – Are there examples of good outreach or technical assistance to incorporate international engagement strategies into local CEDS?
- Many EDDs indicated they have been doing international engagement strategies and services for years and it is part of their CEDS.
- If an administrations doesn’t fund Select USA, the EDDs focused on other programs. If Select USA and international engagement are a priority today, many EDDs need funds to hire staff needed to work on the issue.
Would you join bi-annual meetings of state economic development agency leaders to advance effective practice and better align with EDA goals?
- General agreement that they would join meetings with state ED leaders. It would be helpful if a third party (e.g., CREC) scheduled and facilitated the meeting.
- Needs to be institutional so change in administrations doesn’t change org relationships