What is the role of an economic development committee?

Dan Dibbelt
Smoky River Regional
Economic Development

The Smoky River region has had an economic development committee for many years in various forms.

When I first moved to the Smoky region it was just the Town of Falher and the M.D. of Smoky River. Today, the committee is made up of all five municipalities in the Smoky region with a combination of elected officials, business representatives and community people and even a youth member.

But what is the role of an economic development committee? Isn’t the work being done by our local economic development department? Well, to some degree yes. But doesn’t it make sense to have a group focused on economic development for the region than just one or two people?

Think about it. If you were thinking of relocating your family or business, would you be more interested in:

a) A generic information package?
b) A cold call from a municipal employee or elected official with an obvious stake in your decision? or
c) A qualified recommendation from someone who knows the community and/or the realities of running a business in the community because they too run a business?

When I first relocated to Falher, many years ago, the economic development board and town officials did a great job of making me feel like I was the right guy for the job and this was a great place to live. They did a great job of that, but they had a vested interest in having me move here.
They needed someone to fill the position and of course they would tell me it’s a great job and a great place to live.

But like most people today, I took that with a grain of salt and my next stop was google. I wanted to know all the basics about the community; what amenities were here, how were the schools, and what was there to do in the region. My next step was to talk to people who either had lived in the area or were familiar with the region. Let’s face it, we put a lot of weight in what other people tell us.

That is where the economic development committee comes in. The committee plays two major roles. The first is to advise, brainstorm and inform the economic development staff and the rest of the committee on opportunities in the region.

Perhaps they have heard a rumor about a business closing, perhaps they have heard a new business has been looking in the region, and perhaps they know someone who needs some assistance to either keep their business open or perhaps expand it. The economic development committee is the eyes and the ears in the region that help the economic development staff do their job.

As important as that role is they have an equally important role in being the ambassadors for the region. Their role is to promote the region to anyone who asks, whether that be their neighbour, their council or perhaps someone new in town looking for some information.

It can be a tough task, especially right now when the economy is sluggish. But sluggish or not, opportunity exists for the right businesses and the right people. Even if the economy is slow, we know this is a great region to call home. We know we have great schools. We have great amenities here for kids and adults alike. Slow economy or not, we still all need to shop for the essentials, and some not so essential items. And so, opportunity continues to exist.

The last thing anyone wants to hear when they look at relocating to our region, is “why would you want to move here?” What they should hear is “You are going to love it here.”

The Smoky economic development committee has a very important role in being ambassadors for the region.

They also play a role in keeping their networks informed and engaged about the opportunities that exist in the region. Most importantly, sluggish economy or not, the need to remain positive about their community and the region and they can never give up on that optimistic belief that good things will come this way.

Once they do that, once they stop believing in their community and once the people in the region stop believing, well, why would an outside investor.

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