Economic Developers Do Not Create Jobs

Larry Sassano is president of Florida’s Great Northwest, the 16-county regional economic development organization for Northwest Florida. He is the former President of the Economic Development Council serving Okaloosa County.

Matt Burke

Companies create jobs and often, at least in Northwest Florida, with the help and assistance of an economic development organization at the local, regional and/or state level.


Deals Require a Team Effort

Growing a local economy is a complex undertaking. It takes public officials, private sector investors and practitioners (economic development professionals) working together to generate a successful deal that will create jobs and capital investments beneficial to not only the company making the commitment but the community that in all probability is also making a commitment and investment.

Since there is not one magic formula for measuring the success of landing a new or expanded deal in a community, let’s consider four objective measurements: (1) counting the jobs; (2) counting the capital investment; (3) calculating the jobs per capita; and (4) measuring the investment per capita.

Now, let’s look at other factors that contribute to the success of a deal: (1) the creativity of the economic development strategy; (2) the focus and depth of the project activity; (3) the economic development organization’s (EDO) ability to generate the deal; (4) the ability to properly document the contributions of the EDO to establishing the results of the deal.

These are factors that could be considered when evaluating a project, the deal and the contributions made by the EDO.


Growing the Northwest Florida Economy

Calculating how many jobs have been created and filled in a single year by an EDO is not an easy task. There is no standard method to report how many direct and indirect jobs come into a community with a new business.

The average community may work 20 to 30 projects at any given time. This includes the expansion of existing companies and the relocation or expansion of a new company to the community.  

It is difficult to find one formula that is universal in tracking new jobs, and most EDOs will concede that it is a “gray” area, with each community using its own method for tallying its success.

Perhaps one of the reasons for this discrepancy in tracking jobs is based on what the community, the investors and the EDO’s own board desires as a measurement of success.  

In a perfect world, economic development success could be measured as follows:

  • Effectiveness — Is the EDO making things happen? Is it achieving project goals? Is it contributing in a way that adds value to the project? If the organization sees improvement in a project as a result of its participation, then this could be a measurement of success.
  • Job Creation, Capital Investment, Changes in Tax Base and Personal Income — Perhaps these four measurements are the most common variables used by EDOs today to measure performance.  But perhaps EDOs need to adopt new metrics that better align with their current work.  

 EDO’s could look at a set of metrics that focus on their mission, their functions and the resources they have available to them.

In my research, there is no one magic measurement formula for success. EDOs either use the traditional four outlined above — job creation, capital investment, changes in tax base and personal income — or adopt their own measurements based on their strategies to support growth and development in their respective communities.


The Case for Northwest Florida

I believe what is of utmost importance in the 16-county region of Northwest Florida is for Florida’s Great Northwest to continue to market and brand our region so the world we target for investments and job creation understands what we have to offer them in return for their investments.

Florida’s Great Northwest measures itself on its ability to help the local EDOs find success in the trade missions, conferences, site consultant visits and other marketing activities we coordinate throughout the year. Our goal is to present this region as a globally competitive region so businesses will want to invest and create jobs that help expand the economies and create a greater impact for all citizens. We measure success at the end of the year, by the percentage growth we see taking place from these investments and the jobs that result from the partnering among the local, regional and state organizations dedicated to supporting growth-oriented companies.   

Categories: Operations, Opinion