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Listen Up: Local Is Out – Regional Is In

29 Mar

Many years ago, communities all across this great country thrived on providing quality jobs, superior craftsmanship and secured lifetime employment for its citizens.  As a teenager, if I wanted a job, then I just had to ask someone in my neighborhood and within a day or two I would be working at the local mom and pop store helping stock shelves, serve food or repair a lawn mower.  There were no applications, no background checks, no drug tests and certainly no requests to view my Facebook page.  My how times have changed!

Through technological improvements, stronger regulations, free trade agreements around the globe and a greater cry for transparency in all aspects of business, the local mom and pop shops have been quickly overshadowed and absorbed by major conglomerates with a focus on gaining a top position in their respective industry and they bring a lot of money to the table to make that focus a reality.  All of us have seen this transformation occurring over the last 20 years or more; however, for whatever reason…townships, cities and even counties have failed to recognize that operating solely within their own demographic boundaries is not going to promote their community to the next level in economic development.  The answer:  expand, expand, expand.

If your community is going to be successful at bringing in new jobs, increasing living wages, enhancing the quality of life and marking its spot in this globally competitive world, then you have no choice but to network with your surrounding communities…to expand…to think and compete on a ‘regional’ level.  Again, this will mean sharing of resources – money, capital, labor – to attract the type of companies you want residing in your area.  This type of transformation brings with it a whole new set of challenges, naturally.  But…local officials need to quickly realize that we are no longer competing with the town that’s 30 miles away or the State adjacent to us….we are now competing with China, India, Mexico, Canada and the rest of the world.

If your community fails to expand and develop regional goals and objectives for its economic development and workforce development initiatives, it will be left in the dust and eventually become non-existent.  So, what can you do?  Erase geographical boundaries, merge planning groups together that have a common goal, market the assets that are bountiful within an expanded region (not just in your local municipality), change your mindset that you are no longer competing with your neighbor – you’re now competing with whole countries, identify and promote a special niche that only your region can provide, seek out challenges and opportunities to expand “outside the box,” and last, but certainly not least, equip your regional workforce with transferable skills that can be adapted to meet any organizational need.

Open a dialogue with your community leaders and encourage them to help your region mark its spot by bringing together all stakeholders – including representatives from existing businesses and industries – to develop regional plans on how to rise above the status quo and become more competitive in the global market.  There are many examples out there of just how communities have successfully developed regional initiatives.  Do your research, ask questions and get involved in making your region the best it can be.  What do you think?  Leave me a comment or examples on what your community is doing.  Also…you can follow me on Twitter here.

Photo Credit:  CNN

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