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McComack: You should care about economic development because …

Economic Development is one of those terms — very broad, vague and complex.

Economic Development means business recruitment and retention, but it also means fostering innovation, developing a skilled workforce, community image and branding, and promoting a conducive business climate through good public policy. While some chambers may not be responsible for business attraction, every chamber in the country is in the business of economic development.

We are excited about this week’s launch of National Economic Development Week. St. John the Baptist parish Economic Development department has worked hard to plan a myriad of opportunities each day focusing on a specific topic.

Economic growth is the bloodline of every business that enables it to thrive and prosper. Small business creates as many as 90 percent of the jobs in some years. And in the Great Recession’s aftermath, new businesses are doing all the net job creation in the U.S.!

The real goal of economic growth is to accomplish major improvements in the population’s standard of living; expanding existing markets & business and at the same time opening new ones. Real economic growth in the country also means sharing with one’s neighbor.

Giving business opportunities to others is another sign of economic growth. So how do we do this?

I don’t believe in one size fits all. However, I do think there’s one thing we all need to do to help make this work in our community. One Board / Chamber member put it beautifully. “We have to fall in love with our town and what we have to offer.”

Are you in love with the River Parishes? With that said, I think she’s spot on. What will it take for us to have an emotional bond with our community? We need a mindset of “loyalty” to our community.

What will it take for us to “want” to stay in our local community and not relocate to another area?

The Knight Foundation teamed up with a leading research organization, Gallup, to study what makes people want to stay in the community and how sad they would feel if they had to leave. The study (known as the Soul of the Community Survey) took place over a three-year period in 26 U.S. cities where Knight owns newspapers.

The highest correlation among the characteristics studied with community attachment is social offerings! Social offerings were defined as a vibrant nightlife, availability of the arts and culture, social community events, places to meet each other and the feeling of care in the community.

Next most important was openness. Openness was defined as the community being welcoming and seen as good for older people, minorities, families with young children, gay and lesbian people, young talented college graduates looking for work, immigrants and young adults without children.

Another surprise to some is that aesthetics rounds out the top three reasons people are attached to their particular city. This was defined to mean the physical beauty of the place and the availability of parks and open space.

Safety and jobs were less important to resident perception than you might think.

Education and economic development are natural partners. Business needs a workforce that is literate, not only in reading, but in math and technology. Most also don’t realize the importance of tourism as a source of economic growth.

Communication is key! Be sure to check the parish and Chamber website for a list of what’s happening, when and where. Chamber members will receive daily event reminders throughout the week.

We encourage everyone to take advantage of these opportunities to help learn and keep informed of how economic development affects our community. Economic development is not just the job of those with the title.

Sincerest thanks to Jerry Jones and St. John the Baptist parish for their effort to bring more awareness to our region on how important this topic is today and the future of our society.

Chassity McComack is executive director of the River Region Chamber of Commerce. Email her at Chassity@riverregionchamber.org or log onto riverregionchamber.org.