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What We Learned at the International Economic Development Council’s Annual Conference

November 2nd, 2020

Focusing on Economic Resiliency

The 2020 International Economic Development Council's (IEDC) Annual Conference focused on building resilient and sustainable communities that thrive. In one way or another, all communities, no matter the size, are focused on five main areas:

  • Resiliency in a recession
  • Leadership development
  • Talent development
  • Supporting entrepreneurship
  • Fostering economic opportunity and diversity
  • Economic transformation and diversity.

This year’s conference aligned these five priorities with its conference tracks and highlight interconnected dimensions of “resiliency.”  

Here are some key takeaways from three of the sessions we attended.

Federal Reserve Bank Keynote Presentation

  • The unusual thing about this downturn is that income and consumer spending has not dropped as you would expect to see due to fiscal relief. The concern is if that fiscal relief lapses, then consumer spending would likely decline and ripple into a recession.
  • How do you balance government debt vs short term financial relief? By spending the money now, it will limit the scarring long-term. A calculated risk by spending more now, you mitigate some of the negative effects of the pandemic and rebound faster.
  • On the topic of technology-enabled disruptions, The Fed noted businesses are not investing in technology will have a hard time competing moving forward.
  • Make more economic investments in skills training, early childhood literacy, better educational attainment and they discussed the overall need to invest more in human capital.
  • The Fed is really engaged in rural broadband work and efforts note, investments in broadband need to be made locally.

Managing Virtual Business Recruitment during the Pandemic

  • Be open to having meetings with companies looking to expand in the next 3-4 years to play the long game as well as the short game in business attraction efforts.
  • Spend time researching Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) time investment in finding a meeting pre-covid was 14 hours, now it takes 22 hours for their team members to find a lead.
  • Be open to looking for ways to be creative in building “personal” relationships virtually.
  • The challenge is getting projects to the site visit stage and moving them through the “sales cycle." Most companies are hesitant to make final decisions this year.
  • Anticipated trends include:
    • Increased reliance on technology in business development efforts 
    • Nearshoring is very likely

Partnering with Real Estate Developers and Site Selectors

  • Make sure you give yourself ample time to get the right community partners on board as well as the right interviews set up while also having your objectives clearly articulated. 
  • When working on a community development project, anticipate at least 6 months to do it right. 
  • Engagement events should be planned and designed with six months of planning in mind and should aim to contribute to the overall betterment of the community.

Each year we look forward to attending this international conference, and despite the virtual format, this year was no different. We learned a lot to propel our region forward to our Vision 2030 goals as we work to achieve our vision: "Working together, Northeast Indiana is a magnet for the best businesses and talent and is recognized as one of the nation’s most prosperous regions."