This year's IEDC conference was held in October in Atlanta, GA and EDCUtah's Michael Flynn, vice president of public development, and Kim Lofgreen, vice president of marketing and communications, joined approximately 1,400 leaders from around the world for four days of high-powered workshops, roundtable discussions, networking events and keynote addresses.
"The annual IEDC conference is at the cutting-edge of economic development best practices," says Flynn, "and every time we attend we come back with new ideas."
"There isn't a better place to break down the current issues and new models essential for economic development," adds Lofgreen.
The conference focused on four tracks:
Flynn says one of the highlights of the conference was the Site Selection Forum, where 20 site selectors representing different markets participated in a two-hour panel discussion/question and answer session. Some of the many topics discussed included the following:
- Economic development trends
- How cluster strategies are being used effectively
- A look beneath the surface of the site selection industry
- How to market to site selectors
- The types of data important to the relocation process
Another highlight of the conference was the keynote address by Dr. Arthur C. Nelson, director of metropolitan research at the University of Utah. Dr. Nelson is the founding director of the Center for the New Metropolis at the U., where he is a Presidential Professor of City and Metropolitan Planning in the College of Architecture and Planning. His keynote address highlighted the trends in population growth and the fact that the U.S. is alone among industrialized nations in experiencing substantial population growth--only India will add 100 million people more quickly.
"Preparing for such accelerated growth requires a new approach to economic development, the provision of infrastructure, environmental sustainability, and workforce development. Economic developers will have to embody mobility, flexibility, agility and livability," according to Nelson.
As a leading scholar in urban and regional development planning, public facility finance, economic development, and metropolitan development patterns, Nelson's work has been sponsored by multiple national organizations and government agencies. His research and practice has led to 18 books and more than 200 other scholarly and professional publications.
Lofgreen says the keynote address by best-selling author Richard Florida was also enlightening. A leading public intellectual, Florida's address focused on "Who's Your City?" and discussed the rise of the "creative class," which he defines as a new breed of employees that live and work where they want.
"If you attract this group of employees economic development will take care of itself," according to Florida.
Lofgreen says the conference provided many "take-aways" and a few "Ah ha!" moments, but it generally substantiated many of the economic development initiatives EDCUtah has in place. A few of the many workshops in which Flynn and Lofgreen participated covered topics such as:
- How workforces are changing
- How incentive programs are becoming more progressive and flexible
- How economic development boards are being utilized more effectively
- Unique fundraising tools
- Retail economic development strategies
- Creative public/private financing
- Immigration policy
- Place branding
- Distinguishing a community from the competition
Look for additional information from EDCUtah as Flynn and Lofgreen process the information they gathered at the conference and determine the best applications for Utah economic development efforts.