Friday, March 15, 2013

Thoughts Following Mac Holladay’s Closing Presentation at Georgia Tech’s Basic Economic Development

  Matt DeVeau, Project Associate.

Members of the Market Street team tend to spend a lot of time on the road. That’s a natural result of having worked in more than 150 communities in 32 states, but it’s only part of the story. Our CEO and Founder, J. Mac Holladay, and other team members are also frequent presenters at a variety of events, including economic development conferences and classes. In the past year alone, Market Street has been represented at events in Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, to name a few.

Today, Mr. Holladay delivered another presentation to a large group of economic developers, but this one was a bit closer to home - about four or five blocks from the Market Street home office, depending on which route one chooses to walk. He delivered the closing address at the Basic Economic Development Course held at the Global Learning Center in Georgia Tech’s Tech Square development.

“GT BEDC,” as it’s commonly known, provides its attendees with an introductory overview of all aspects of the economic development business, from site selection and workforce development to quality placemaking and beyond. In its 46 years of existence, it has produced more than 2,900 graduates, myself included. This year, more than 60 economic development professionals attended the four-day course. They heard from a roster of presenters that featured some of the finest minds in the business, including Mr. Holladay and Market Street’s Director of Research Ellen Cutter.

I had the privilege of attending Mr. Holladay’s presentation that concluded a few moments ago. His remarks were essentially an extended version of one of our core philosophies: economic development is holistic and is a “team sport” that requires the involvement of all groups from within a community to be done right. Mr. Holladay interwove this theme throughout his presentation, which focused on economic development as a profession, the current economic realities in which we work, emerging trends and issues that are affecting the business, and strategies and case studies that detail successful implementations from around the country.

It’s not possible to fully summarize the presentation in this space – this is holistic economic and community development, after all. But one important highlight was the discussion of how communities are measuring success, a topic that has previously been raised in this space. The recent run of success in Austin, Texas is by now widely known throughout the economic development community. But Austin’s story is about more than just increasing jobs and wages. In its latest five-year economic development strategy, Opportunity Austin 3.0, the community’s leaders broadened their measures of success to include the items shown below in a graphic that I clipped from today’s presentation. Austin now tracks things like the poverty rate, the percentage of commuters who drive alone, and direct to college enrollment alongside employment and capital investment figures. That diverse range of metrics, shown together on one slide, is in many ways representative of the presentation as a whole – economic development professionals need to look at the whole picture and work hard to improve it. That is a message that our team hopes to travel many more miles to share.