Written by: Christine Rambo, NLEP Vice President, Communications/Corporate Affairs
Published in Gannett Newspapers
Economic development works best as a team effort! I’m often asked why we have so many different economic development groups. That’s because economic development covers a broad spectrum of activities, ranging from community development, workforce development, entrepreneurial and small business assistance to economic development marketing, economic gardening and business climate advocacy, just to name a few.
Each group has its role to play in advancing the economic prosperity of its community or region. Together our joint activities generate a synergy that promotes job creation and capital investment. While roles might overlap, different economic development groups perform different functions and focus on different target audiences.
As a nonprofit regional economic development marketing organization, North Louisiana Economic Partnership (NLEP) focuses on promoting 14 parishes in North Louisiana to recruit new companies and to help existing businesses grow in the region. Our role is to act as the region’s sales force, cheerleader and business development team. We do this on a regional level, because collectively North Louisiana is stronger than its individual parts. By working together our individual communities can pool their resources to more effectively tell the region’s story through advertising, marketing, public relations, editorial placement, networking, business development trips and familiarization tours of our area.
NLEP helps generate and service leads, which we in turn share with communities in North Louisiana. Within the 14 parishes of North Louisiana that we serve, NLEP remains neutral about where a project goes as long as it locates within our region. That’s why our partnerships with local economic development organizations (EDOs) are important in the process. Local EDOs act as an advocate for their individual communities. They take the lead in negotiating and closing a deal with a prospective company. NLEP continues to walk alongside the community, its local EDO and our clients, facilitating the site selection process - a process by which a company decides where it wants to locate or expand its facility.
Louisiana Economic Development (LED), the state’s lead economic development agency, is another key player in the site selection process. LED speaks for the state administration and can offer state incentives and business assistance programs to entice a company to Louisiana. LED is often the front door when a company isn’t sure where it wants to locate within the state. Once a prospect narrows its focus on a specific region or community, regional EDOs like NLEP and/or local EDOs become more actively involved in supporting the prospective or existing company.
This hierarchy of state, regional and local economic development groups works together as a team to land the prospect. Organizations like chambers of commerce and workforce development groups frequently get pulled into the site selection process, when prospects want to hear from the local business community or learn about the local workforce. However, chambers and workforce development groups primarily focus on improving their communities and community assets on a local level.
Chambers serve as the voice for businesses before local, state and federal governments, advocating for a better business climate and business-friendly legislation. They might also act as the lead agency or partner in helping a community develop a vision plan for economic development. Workforce development groups like the local workforce investment boards (WIB) prepare and improve the labor force for employers.
Every group plays a vital role in the economic development process. Without the chambers and WIB boards improving their local communities, regional economic development marketing organizations like NLEP would find it a “harder sell” to recruit and keep companies in the region. Meanwhile, local communities rely on NLEP and LED to market the region and the state respectively to national and international audiences, thus generating leads that local EDOs help land and close. Every group plays a vital role in the economic development process and working collaboratively as partners increases our chances for success and prosperity.