In high school I barely knew what public relations was; last summer I didn’t understand economic development. If you asked me what career path I wanted to take when growing up, it ranged from a fashion designer to an actuarial scientist. Needless to say, my studies changed direction a few times, and after several internships I graduated with my Bachelor of Arts degree in Advertising and Public Relations. Working at a “place marketing” agency for three months now, my clients include economic development organizations of all sizes, from international countries, to states, cities and regions in the U.S.
Working in such a nice area of PR, I often get questions about what it is I do, exactly.
Business Dictionary defines economic development as progress in an economy, or the qualitative measure of this. Economic development usually refers to the adoption of new technologies, transition from agriculture-based to industry-based economy, and general improvement in living standards.
Taken with a grain-of-salt, Wikipedia also adds that economic development can be referred to as the quantitative and qualitative changes in the economy.
Generally, I explain my job as promoting business where my clients are located. Economic development to me means bettering the quality of life for a group of people through creation of jobs. This happens when companies expand or relocate, or when new companies start. Often, large companies can have significant impact on communities through the related jobs. Having a strong source of talent through local higher-education institutions, workforce development programs and quality of infrastructure are many factors corporations consider when deciding where to locate.
As a simple example, let’s say that a brand new-amusement park is opening in Kansas. The park will need employees, creating more than 1,000 jobs. The entertainment company will invest $3 million for property, while the community will add an additional $2 million in incentives to attract them to their region. As a side effect, more hotels and restaurants will open in the area, to accommodate the anticipated tourists. More employees will be needed to staff these establishments and an increase in tourist activity will bring more money into the local economy.
While that is a very top-line example, economic development happens across all industries from manufacturing to aviation, pharmaceuticals and research to logistics and supply chain, financial establishments and information technology.
I’ve been writing daily for economic development clients through pitches, press releases, articles, social media and more. Working for an agency, it’s my team’s job to get favorable stories about clients’ communities into top-tier and trade publications. We also work on projects to strategically market and promote places, through branding, events and more. And that is why I enjoy working in economic development: I feel that it is an area of public relations in which I can make a noticeable difference in the world and make a name for myself in the profession.
My top reads for industry news? Bloomberg Businessweek, The Wall Street Journal, CNN Money, Atlantic CityLabs and Area Development. Are you in economic development? How do you explain it? I’d love to hear your favorite parts about the job and how you got into the field.