5 Things I've Learned from being an Economic Development Professional

I’ve been an economic development professional for over a decade, with over half of the time spent in the public sector.  The last three years, I’ve been building my business - just when I think I’ve got a good handle on a project, I’m reminded that there are certain things you can always count on.

Below is a list of 5 things I’ve learned since being in the economic development field.  They are by no means all  the lessons I’ve learned, and I guarantee I will continue to learn throughout the duration of my career.

In no particular order:

1. There will always be surprises - plan accordingly.
I’m a very Type A person - ask our clients.  I’m the queen of creating schedules, highlighting important deadlines and setting reminders.  No matter how much you plan, there will always be surprises.  From a decision being tabled by a Planning Commission, to a 45-minute discussion at a public hearing regarding the color of overhead doors (yes, this really happened) - we’ve encountered surprises in every single project I’ve worked on.  Be prepared.  

2. Policies can be changed.
Policies and ordinances are in place for a reason.  Whether you think it’s overreaching, every policy and ordinance was put in place for a reason, and was meant to serve a purpose.  Don’t get me wrong, they can seem outdated, but when created, in most cases, were created with good intentions.  With that being said, we’ve found that some policies and ordinances are out of date.  In fact, we’ve had countless occasions where city/county/state staff has agreed with us - don’t let this stop you from pushing for change.  If you can justify your reasoning, and arm yourself with supporting facts - these can be changed.  We’ve amended countless policies and ordinances in many cities and counties in the past three years.  It’s not easy, but it can be done - if it makes sense for all parties involved.

3. Get a second opinion.
We work with several professionals: realtors, builders, bankers, etc. Some of our clients are fiercely loyal, some are open to suggestions.  While I’m a firm believer in loyalty, I also find no fault in getting a second opinion, build, quote, etc.  Don’t get me wrong - the lowest price is not always the best option; you need to take the intangibles into consideration: customer service, relationships, experience, etc., but there’s nothing wrong with having a fresh set of eyes look at your project.  

4. Incentives and programs can make or break a project.
Matching businesses with financial incentives and programs is one of the main reasons we started Decklan Group - there were too many projects not moving forward due to a lack of financing and red tape, and excellent incentives and programs going unused because businesses were not aware of them.  Make sure you’re exploring all options - if you’re having trouble finding the financing or program to make the project happen, don’t give up.  Call a professional...us ;-

5. You can never plan far enough in advance.
We’ve worked with over 50 businesses and countless government entities and organizations since Decklan Group’s inception.  We’ve never had someone tell us “wow, I contacted you way too early!”.  It’s never happened.  Regardless of where you’re at in the stage of your project, it’s imperative to do your due diligence when it comes to 1) selecting a suitable site, 2) outlining your project budget, and 3) identifying all sources of financing (including incentives).  More often than not, a client has hired us after purchasing a site (only to find out they didn’t fit into the current zoning district), after ordering a $100,000 piece of machinery or afterbreaking ground on their facility - this is too late.  While rezoning a property isn’t impossible, it can be ridiculously challenging, time consuming and frustrating.  Furthermore, we have yet to come across a low-interest loan, tax rebate or incentive that can be used to pay for something after the fact.  Plan ahead, your project will take longer than you think..

Moral of the story?  Companies like ours are your friends, can save you millions, put you in a position to make millions more, and almost most importantly, take care of nearly all of the headaches associated with building or expanding so you can concentrate on what you’re best at...running your business.