March 2022 Project Presentation at NADO’s Washington Policy Conference:
Highlighting Opportunities for States and Economic Development Districts (EDDs) to Better Align Economic Development Planning Strategies
At the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) Policy Conference in March, the EDA, CREC, and Economic Development Districts (EDDs) from Arkansas and New Mexico discussed approaches to improved collaboration with state governments. Ryan Smith from EDA spoke about how CARES Act and ARPA funding is allowing regional partners to make transformative investments, and EDA is working to understand how states can partner with them and be more supportive of local ideas. To improve state-local strategic collaboration, EDA is funding a project with CREC to better align state and local economic development planning strategies.
Mereb Hagos, representing CREC (the project lead), noted that two thirds of EDDs surveyed in a recent survey reported fair or poor collaboration with their state, highlighting the importance of improved alignment and collaboration. CREC is working with NADO to finalize a matrix comparing regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDS) and state economic development strategic plans. CREC presented preliminary results showing that CEDS most often align with state programs on workforce, industry clusters, and admin/governance. Other project partners include the State International Development Organizations (SIDO) and American Manufacturing Communities Collaborative (AMCC).
Presenters also explained that EDDs must invest in their relationship with state agencies and use their expertise and value proposition to illustrate their importance to state projects. Mark Goodman from the East Arkansas EDD outlined possibilities for collaboration and the active role EDDs can and should play in their relationship with state offices. He shared several effective engagement strategies including engaging state employees where they are, identifying what they need, and seeking public venues to promote the value of Districts.
For example, EDDs should be able to answer the question “what do you do?” when talking to their state. Raymond Mondragon and Vincent Soule from the Eastern Plains COG in New Mexico explained how the designation of a new interstate highway was only possible because of their consistent collaboration with state and federal agencies. Finally, the EDA reiterated that the project should determine what is working well, what needs to improve, and how to share future ideas from CREC’s analysis.