In The 'Hood

The world's growing at Internet speed, but your local economic development agency's still watching out for you.

Just about every metropolitan area in the country has an economic development organization that's probably best known for attracting new business and industry. Ever thought about what these agencies can do for existing businesses? The answer, in many cases, is plenty.

Though the specifics vary by organization, many economic development agencies offer services geared toward expansion and retention, as well as recruitment. The Economic Development Corporation of Utah (EDCU) is a good example. "Any of the economic data or tools we have that are used by corporate site selectors can also be used by existing businesses," says Chris Roybal, vice president of EDCU in Salt Lake City. Such information might include data on the labor market, utilities, taxes, financial resources, various incentives and more.

The EDCU also operates a supplier database to help companies find needed materials from in-state vendors. Yet another service the agency offers is networking and referrals, using its own contacts to bring together companies that need the services and organizations that provide them.

"These services are for companies that don't have researchers who can go out and collect this type of data," Roybal says. "Most, if not all, of the economic data provided by groups like ours is free of charge."

Roybal notes that not all economic development agencies are created equal. Some are public, some are private, and some are public-private partnerships; some are independent, while others work within other organizations, such as chambers of commerce. "All of them have varying degrees of expertise," he says. Taking advantage of that expertise may be as simple as calling your local economic development agency and asking what it can do to assist your local business.

Jacquelyn Lynn left the corporate world more than 13 years ago and has been writing about business and management from her home office in Winter Park, Florida, ever since.

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