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How to Develop an Economic Development Strategy: Follow Maine’s Lead

Strategic planning for economic development is not a new thing. But for many smaller communities it hasn’t been a huge priority until recent years. So where do you start with creating a strategic economic development plan?

One of the key factors is research - market research about your region, your assets, and your communities, as well as research about economic development planning. The knowledge you gain will help you and your team understand where you’re going and what you’re trying to achieve, and how to make it a well-rounded plan. 

Look to Maine’s Economic Development Strategy as an Example

The state of Maine undertook a state-wide strategic planning for economic development initiative and released their 10-year plan at the end of 2019. They produced a comprehensive and well-researched strategic plan. The plan clearly shows how all of their assets, both natural and technological, can be interconnected.

The state of Maine has abundant forests as well as extensive coastline. It also has plenty of technology available. These natural assets plus technology put it in a great position to build industry around sustainable products and manufacturing. Maine’s deepwater ports are also an important asset for distributing what it produces. Besides the economic value of raw products that can be harvested sustainably in its forests, the state's wilderness areas are highly appealing to people who would like to escape big city living for easier access to favourite outdoor activities.

Maine’s economic development strategy sets a clear vision for the future. Even in a post-pandemic economy, the goals are relevant and still achievable; it's not a plan that can be derailed by a global pandemic.

What Is the Secret Behind a Strong Economic Development Strategy?

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The secret to creating an achievable and well-rounded economic development plan, like Maine’s, isn’t much of a secret at all: it’s market research. 

The Maine Economic Development Strategy 2020-2029 shows the value of focused and in-depth market research. 

Maine’s EDOs collected market research about which industries were important to Maine’s success and the people who wanted to improve the state’s economy. Data was also collected on ways to engage youth, and on public, private, and non-profit sector collaboration across industries. 

The research helped the EDOs focus their strategy on ways to connect people towards a common goal. The economic development plan recognizes that engaging all types of people in Maine is crucial to the state’s economic development. 

The findings revealed a need to focus on developing new innovation and technology and embracing new ways of working. But the plan also highlights the importance of helping existing businesses expand and embrace the future by working with educational organizations to help upskill and train current employees for new roles to support the expansion and retention of existing businesses. 

The mission of the state becomes clear with all this market research: all of Maine’s residents working together improve life for everyone in the state. 

Use Market Research to Guide Your Strategic Planning

An economic development officer can employ a tool like Triage BR+E™. The Triage BR+E™ tool allows you to identify opportunities for creating a stronger business community in your region by identifying which businesses need critical support and which businesses are thriving. The data from the tool will help you be strategic about how you engage with business owners and how you build connection and collaboration in the community.

Start Building Your Economic Development Strategy for Success

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References: 

https://www.maine.gov/decd/sites/maine.gov.decd/files/inline-files/DECD_120919_sm.pdf 

https://www.maine.gov/governor/mills/news/governor-mills-unveils-ten-year-strategic-economic-development-plan-focused-promoting 

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