Building a dynamic & viable business community

Looking at the correct metrics for measuring your business success is the subject of Steve Rosvold’s column in the Innovation & Manufacturing section of today’s VBJ. Rosvold points to six key steps in identifying and measuring the business performance over time. He refers to utilizing a “Balance Scorecard” to ensure long-term success by including financial and non-financial measures.

Similarly, the draft of the county-wide strategic plan submitted by TIP Strategies Inc. (TIPS) sets out a list of metrics by which we, as a business community, should be measuring our economic development success – including efforts to recruit companies to the county and to keep those already here.

After interviewing dozens of private business owners, executives and public officials, TIPS suggests there are four guiding principles presently at work in the county. Within an economic development plan, these principles reflect our underlying values and new measures provide a framework of direction intended to move the community forward. Economic vitality is the overarching foundation supported by the principles of prosperity, business vitality and collective identity.

In simpler words, the plan is suggesting we work to create a community that is focused on building a unique identity through the pursuit of a business sector or concentration, business community health (as defined by increasing value of assets, such as land) and steadily improving individual earnings.

Traditionally, the measure of economic development success has been jobs. What business can we recruit to the county and how many jobs will they bring with them? Just as Rosvold suggests in his column that success measures of a business must be more than financial, the draft strategic plan lays out eight specific measures for the community in addition to simply tracking job growth. TIPS suggests widening our focus to include this array of measures will better create the vitality and sustainability we all want for county.

On jobs, the plan specifically notes that primary job creation is one of the outcomes anticipated, but clarifies it stating, “job creation in and of itself does not ensure economic vitality.”

The eight additional measures include assessed value of developed land; amount of new business investment; number of private establishments; number of new businesses formed/attracted in target sectors; average annual pay; median household income; population over 25 years of age with a bachelor’s degree and those with an associate’s degree.

Last month, this column talked about the need for the plan, when adopted, to include all sectors and jurisdictions. The goals and implementation tactics outlined in the draft provide a way for all those involved in economic development, public and private, to participate. The success measures, including but not limited to jobs, give us a more complete method by which we can judge our progress toward building a dynamic and viable business community.