Elected Leaders and economic development

Published: 29th May 2020

By Paul Cranch,  LGAQ Lead - Trade and Investment

Economic development is the process of building strong, adaptive and equitable local economies. Effective economic development demands informed leadership from local elected leaders. Just like there are various functions of local economic development, there are also a variety of different roles that elected leaders should play in the process.  

Here are my tips for leveraging your role to help encourage economic growth:  

Be a student: 

Take the time to learn about the economic development priorities, strategies, and stakeholders in your city/region. Your residents, business community, and real estate developers will be looking to you for leadership on future projects. 

Be a convener: 

With so many players in the mix, it would be easy for communication to be inconsistent among all the various stakeholders. As an elected leader you can convene these individuals at neighbourhood meetings, public meetings, and site visits to make sure everyone has access to the same data and information about economic development projects.  Appoint stakeholders to organize and implement this function.  

Be a listener: 

When you convene your stakeholders, it’s important to listen to their feedback (both positive and negative). Your residents may not be happy with every single economic development decision, but it’s important for your community members to know their opinions are being heard and taken into consideration. Take extra care to make sure you’re not leaving anyone out and giving opportunity for all to have their voices heard.  

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Be a policymaker: 

Review your zoning code and local regulations to see if there are ways that you can make the economic development process more transparent and inclusive. Consider the effects of your actions on the business climate, particularly as it relates to the needs and interests of existing businesses. If you can help set the funding for economic development, make sure you are acting consistently and providing adequate resources to make your community competitive. If you have the opportunity to appoint board members of economic development organizations and hire professionals to lead them, make sure you consider the strengths and qualifications these people bring very carefully. Every position makes a difference.  

Be a salesperson 

As an elected official you probably ran for council because you love your community and want to help improve it. Be a salesperson for your region/city so that others will want to live, work, and play there. Often an elected leader can make a significant difference in building relationships with existing businesses and advocating for your community to new businesses.  

Be an ambassador:  

You will also at times need to be a cheerleader for your community on national and international stages. In particular, you may visit other countries to learn about their industries or to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). When participating, make sure your actions are strategic, demonstrate accountability, and bring value for your efforts. 

Want to know more? Go to the members-only LG Online Trade and Investment Portfolio page at https://www.lgaq.asn.au/group/guest/trade-and-investment-portfolio