Reset and Renewal

By Greg Knighton, EDPA; EDAA Summer Conference Chair

Aug. 22, 2011 – Just over a week ago, the Economic Development Association of Alabama held its 2011 Annual Meeting and Summer Conference in Orange Beach, Ala. The theme of the this year’s conference was Reset and Renewal in the Economy, which reflects a reality we are all facing. At a time when the economy has been reset, the economic development profession is renewing itself to meet the challenges of the times.

The conference agenda and speakers addressed these challenges: Labor trends, creative financing options, entrepreneurship, university-based economic development, a strategic plan for economic growth in Alabama, trade, biotechnology, innovation in existing industry, and current site selection trends.

Ironically, the EDAA conference was held in a community that is renewing itself after one of the largest oil spills in history.

As economic developers, we must understand the economy we are operating in, and adapt our practices accordingly. That is why Reset and Renewal is so important to our profession – just as it is to successful businesses.

The economic development community must remain focused on its core mission: Job creation.

And, we must celebrate the positive news.  The number of project announcements in Alabama increased in 2010, and continues on a similar trend for 2011. As these jobs come online, Alabamians can take hope in opportunity. Especially gratifying is the fact that many of the announced jobs come from existing Alabama companies that set roots in Alabama over the past 15 years.

The week before the conference was capped off with an announcement from one such Alabama company. Topre, in Cullman, announced a $109M expansion creating 250 additional jobs. Such news is a testament to the state’s strong business climate.

One thing cannot change in Alabama’s economic development community – the teamwork that has brought so much success to our state. As a team, we must move forward. While the term “reset” may make some of us cringe, “renewal” is certainly something to celebrate.