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Outlook for the Economic Development Industry: Four Predictions for 2021

Development Counsellors International (DCI), the leader in marketing places, released a report in April aimed to better understand how the economic development industry will emerge from this tumultuous past year and how industry leaders across the country expect to move forward.

Utilizing research conducted in partnership with the Site Selector’s Guild – an association of the world’s foremost professional site selection consultants – and a series of interviews conducted with economic development organizations across the United States (including our very own, Jason Ball), DCI’s research reveals four key predictions for 2021 and beyond:

  1. Continued Project Momentum: While many expected project activity in 2020 to come to a screeching halt when the pandemic hit, Round Rock and all of Texas experienced quite the opposite. Optimism prevails about continued economic recovery with evidence of increased project activity, particularly in certain industry sectors.
  2. The Greater the Challenges, The Greater the Innovation: DCI put it well: only those who innovate will survive and thrive. While there is no question that 2020 presented unprecedented challenges for the economic development industry, it also provided opportunities to innovate. Organizations were forced to adapt more rapidly than ever – from embracing new technology to marketing our communities virtually to shifting economic development priorities altogether –and there’s no sign of these trends slowing.
  3. Smaller Areas, Bigger Opportunities: Technological innovation and the transition to a more remote workforce are shifting the focus on the large urban core to allow rural, suburban and mid-tier cities a new level of competitiveness both for attracting corporate investment and talent, placing Round Rock in a uniquely attractive position.
  4. Demographics and De-globalization—Talent Remains the Top Factor: Economic development organizations will be required to address ongoing issues to attract and retain talent while ensuring that economic growth is equitable and inclusive. To do so, economic developers will find themselves needing to tackle topics traditionally outside of our wheelhouse such as access to childcare, housing availability and affordability and taking a deeper dive into building quality of place. As Jason puts it, “What the country is able to accomplish moving forward is going to depend on access to talent…”

In DCI’s summary, the state of the economic development industry is strong and clearly recognizes the need for innovation at both the industry and organizational levels. But above all, it is a pivotal time for economic developers to evolve and take on new roles to contribute to their community’s economic recovery and to ensure more resilient, more diverse and more sustainable economies.

Click here to download the full report: DCI Insights: Outlook for Economic Development.