It's a small industry, economic development. At least that's how it can feel to the hundreds PDI members who, perhaps along with a small staff and city colleague or two, are the only ones administering professional economic development services in their communities day in and day out. It can be a lonely business some days, as the next industry colleague- the person or persons who really get the complications, the pressures, what's really happening in your world- is sometimes a city or a town away.
Then an event like the SMART Conference happens, like it did earlier this month, and we realize how big and how cohesive our industry really is in our state. We are reminded that despite how limited our organizational budgets, our staffing levels or our perceived collegial relationships specific to economic development, our communities and our state are teeming with partners and colleagues and collaborators. SMART's roster of attendees was incredibly instructive on how many entities and individuals are invested in the success of our state's economic developers. Representatives from the utilities, IEDA, SBA, IWD, USDA, private business sector, local government, councils of government, regent universities, the governor himself- that's a small sampling of the folks who were in the room and, correspondingly, who are invested in our success.
An experience like SMART reinforces the fact that economic development is something to everyone, all the time. It's why every elected official alive runs on a platform of economic development, why you're stopped [accosted?] at the grocery store on Saturday morning by a citizen with an idea ['so, can we get, like, Twitter here, then?' (thanks Altoona)], why your board seats are prized in your community, why social conversations can pivot toward your job performance out of nowhere [I thought we were talking about football?], why when your office has a job opening you get range of applicants from fast food workers to college professors [‘allow me to discuss my unique interpretation of spatial development strategy and its cognitive applications with you'] for the same job. Our industry is small and huge, all at the same time, and it's incumbent on practitioners like us to decide whether to take a sleeping bag or a party tent approach. And who wouldn't choose a party over sleeping on the ground?
President, Professional Developers of Iowa