Chapter 1 – What is Economic Development, and Why Does it Matter?
Transformative Economic Development: Chapter 1
I didn’t know what economic development was growing up. But in retrospect, there were signs. I used to build cities on my floor out of Legos and Lincoln Logs (very easy with no zoning). I was involved in student government. In college, I majored in sociology – the study of people, followed by business school – the study of money. Without knowing it, I was training to be an economic developer.
But when I took the job at GNO, Inc., the economic development agency for Greater New Orleans region, I was still a bit hazy on the concept. I certainly understood the selling aspect of economic development, and the importance of growing jobs. But, like most people, I thought economic development was mostly about sales. That was fine. I loved New Orleans, liked to talk, and enjoyed a ribbon-cutting as much as the next guy.
This incomplete understanding of economic development was fixed forever on a benchmarking trip to Charlotte, one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation. We were eating lunch on the top floor of a bank headquarters: the food bland, the views grand. My host was chairman of the local economic development group. He was proud of his region, widely seen as a good location to both base a company and raise a family, creating a virtuous cycle of jobs and workforce.