Seven trends in economic development

Published 3:54 pm Tuesday, October 27, 2015

After one year in my role as the Marketing and Research Assistant with Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc., I have learned first-hand that education through communication is one of the best ways to de-bunk myths and ideas about our organization. For example, economic development organizations by nature are commonly perceived by the public to be fueled by secret prospect visits and back-room deals, but these misconceptions are just that — misconceptions.

In our continued effort to combat this hurdle, you are invited to take an inside look at the seven current trends in economic development as outlined by Ronnie L. Bryant, president and CEO of the Charlotte Regional Partnership. During a 2015 International Economic Development Council Training Course, Bryant discussed ways for economic development organizations to best manage themselves — this included understanding trends to assist in being proactive as opposed to reactive economic development organizations. Each of the seven trends are outlined below to show the current focuses of economic development organizations within the region, state and nation.

1. Benchmarking: Understanding how our area (whether it be city, region or state) stacks up against real competition.

Economic development organizations are constantly competing for prospects that are a good fit for their local economy, therefore benchmarking is imperative to understand how to set our community apart. Having the ability to look at one’s own community without rose-colored lenses helps to better prepare communities for large opportunities. If we never knew there were obstacles then how can we overcome them? This question is one that fuels Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. to actively make recommendations on infrastructure improvements and site preparedness in our community.

2. Business Retention and Expansion: Finding out where there’s job growth.

BRE is hands-down one of the most important aspects of economic development and it can easily be explained as not looking for the grass to be greener on the other side and instead watering your own grass. Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. is actively involved in business retention and expansion initiatives, including pop-in visits and meetings with business owners/managers and free professional development opportunities for business owners, managers and employees.

3. Economic Gardening: Creating opportunities for start-ups.

Entrepreneurship is becoming more recognized as our local community job creators, although they have been around for some time, these individuals are now in the spotlight. Through incubator and accelerator programs like the Franklin Business Incubator, located in Historic Downtown Franklin start ups are given the opportunity to grow their business in an office space that is affordable and offers services geared towards success.

4. Globalization: Making international connections.

Opportunities to make international connections have never been easier than they are today. Technology has allowed economic development along with a variety of other industries to reach out globally to assist in starting and closing successful business deals. Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. has relationships with a variety of international consultants and site selectors that assist in expanding our reach globally.

5. Regionalism: Standing behind the statement “The bigger the target the larger the opportunity.”

A bottom-up approach to economic development where regional efforts are linked into a common statewide framework has become a more popular model. Site selectors start their searches for the “perfect location” out not in, hence the emphasis on regionalism. Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. is an active member of the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance (HREDA) and has an established partnership with the Port of Virginia and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) to regionally market our community.

6. Return on Investment: Establishing a stronger economy.

When it is time for pens to hit the paper and officially sign an economic development deal, the number one focus is establishing a stronger economy for the community and thus ensuring a positive return on investment. It is important to note that the incentives provided to new businesses are presented with the community’s return on investment as the main focus. Recent economic development announcements including Hampton Farms, Providence Agriculture, Love’s and Enviva are large scale examples of how Franklin Southampton is establishing a stronger economy.

7. Social Media: Understanding the importance of exposure.

The use of social media should not be limited to that of retail shops and restaurants for business purposes. With a variety of social media platforms to choose from there are professional options for economic development offices to establish a presence.

Franklin Southampton Economic Development, Inc. has an active presence on Facebook and Twitter. Visit www., and like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter by visiting @FSEDIStaff.

Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. has — and continues to make efforts — to address the misconceptions of economic development organizations, and we hope this inside look assisted in this effort. If you are interested in staying “in the know” about economic development, small business and tourism-related information we would be glad to add you to our newsletter list.

Please email and ask to subscribe to be added to the list. Also, be on the lookout for the new Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. website,, which has become available for viewing.

We thank you all for your continued support of economic development and we look forward to having open dialogue and discussion about economic development in our community.

MALLORY TAYLOR is the Marketing & Research assistant for Franklin Southampton Economic Development Inc. Contact her at 562-1958, or