Director, Yakima Valley Development Association
There is the old adage that, “Time flies when you are having fun” and David McFadden is certainly having fun in Yakima. This year he celebrates his 25th year in the profession. And though economic development seems to change quicker than David’s hairstyles, David seems to always be ahead of the trends in implementing sustainable economic development strategies. He has been a valued member of this profession as he has practiced how the profession should be changing. The numbers seem to prove him right. Over the last five years, under his leadership, Yakima Valley Development Association helped 12 firms locate or expand with investments of $82 million that have directly created 410 new jobs with a payroll of about $12.7 million. This is why an independent audit comparing the five-year YCDA investment against the annual economic returns showed a community return on investment of $95 dollars for every dollar spent.
As one of the senior economic developers in the state, what are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the profession over the last five years?
Marketing our region as a business location has changed dramatically with the growth of online research and site selection. Social media has also been a trend we have followed carefully with our eyes towards the online networking that advances economic development as opposed to fluff.
Another big change is the model for economic development itself. I believe communities across the country are transitioning from a recruitment preoccupied economic development strategy to one that places much more emphasis on place or community building. A place oriented economic development strategy also puts a lot more emphasis on local business development and educational attainment strategies. Richard Florida really captured the essence of place making in his books and articles and he deserves a lot of credit for turning our profession on its head. Having said this I don’t agree with everything he says. There is still plenty of room in economic development for business recruitment. I am a believer that the old and new models still contain relevant strategies – communities and states need to do their own analyses to determine what economic development initiatives and priorities best fit their situation.
How has New Vision strategies adjusted to that change?
We adopted new entrepreneurship and talent attraction strategies five years ago that are working and gaining popularity in our state. At the time we moved in these new directions we were one of the only EDC organizations in the NW pursuing these new strategies.
We have also developed a new partnership with our Educational Service District and local schools around STEM education. I firmly believe (and my community agrees) that raising your region’s educational quotient is one of the most important economic development initiatives today. With companies hiring again and the loom of baby boomer retirement, regions can best realize their potential by developing a robust talent pipeline.
In our new five year plan we continue our entrepreneur and talent attraction/development initiatives. We invested in these areas and took a bit of money out of our marketing/recruiting budget to support these new programs.
What can the Department of Commerce do with economic development organizations to help grow jobs ?
The Department of Commerce needs to continue building economic development capacity in the trenches with sustainable funding, technical assistance and education and training. Strengthening the ADO network and working with other local partners will ensure that all parts of the state have a viable economic development organization and capable partners.
Commerce also needs to provide centralized management for key initiatives like business recruitment and business retention and expansion. Commerce can develop effective co-op marketing partnerships and drive best practices throughout the state in terms of business retention and expansion initiatives. This is not happening to the extent it should today and a lot of us at the local level are operating in a bit of a vacuum and not benefiting from the Department’s ability to orchestrate initiatives and share best practices.
And finally Commerce needs to carefully consider how it fits into the new “placemaking” economic development model. It is clear that Commerce cannot be everything to everybody so it needs to carefully assess new economic development approaches while maintaining core economic development initiatives that are needed by its local partners.
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