About a month ago I sat on a panel with a collection of leading economic development people from all over the country as Anatalio Ubalde, CEO of GISPlanning, threw hard questions at us in front of an audience of our peers. This little pressure cooker happened at the IEDC Leadership Conference in Irvine, California. And it was one of those situations where you walk into it worrying about how you’re going to come off, but you walk out of it realizing how privileged you were to get to hear and talk to the amazing people sitting beside you.
IEDC’s publication, ED Now, did a brief write up on the session (and knowing GISPlanning and their fondness for videotaping, I’m sure footage will emerge eventually). One of the neatest things about the conversation was that we were able to take on the reframing of economic development work — as a key contributor to a community’s resilience and strength, part of the mix with urban planning and housing and all of the other elements of community management that we have too long treated as Someone Else’s Job.
What I myself said on that topic apparently resonated, and not just inside my head, because that’s what Louise Story of IEDC picked up on in her article. This was off-the-cuff, but it draws on one of the core messages of the book — rethinking the importance of community resilience, the fact that a community’s own strength is its own most important economic development asset, and the fact that we can’t work in silos anymore:
Building resiliency and community
Echoing a broader conversation currently taking place, the first audience question for the panel was about the growth in income inequality. Della Rucker, principal of the Wise Economy Workshop in Cincinnati, pointed to practical reasons why economic developers should focus on this issue.
“More and more, our viability as an economy depends on our viability as a community,” said Rucker. “Economic development cannot exist in a silo, planning cannot exist in a silo. It’s really all about making communities as functional, as vibrant, as resilient as possible. Addressing disparities of all types becomes an essential element of that, even if just from a self-interest standpoint.”
Thanks again to Anatalio for his ongoing kindness to me and the Wise Economy work, to GISPlanning and IEDC for being willing to push this conversation forward, and to the other amazing people who sat on the panel for enlightening and energizing me.