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LVEDC’S Local Government Council Kicks Off With A Probing Presentation and Discussion

By LVEDC Staff on September 17, 2013

In a historic moment, more than half of Lehigh Valley municipalities were represented at the inaugural meeting of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Local Government Council on September 12th at Whitehall Area High School.
Attendees heard a presentation by Jay Garner of Garner Economics, LLC. Garner is a nationally-recognized site selector and economic development consultant, who is assisting LVEDC in developing a regional strategy to help guide the Lehigh Valley’s economic development initiatives for the next decade.

“It’s important that our region truly understands our strengths and our weaknesses to attract quality development that benefits the Lehigh Valley and its citizens,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC. “And everyone here tonight from local government is a vital partner in that process.”

During Garner’s 45-minute presentation, he examined what factors distinguish a region to companies looking to relocate operations. When you boil it down, Garner said, one trait rises above the rest.

“Leadership drives economic development,” Garner told the crowd. “Leadership on the regional level from people like those at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and at the local level in your municipalities will determine the difference between success and failure.”

During his Are We On The Same Page? Understanding What Makes Good Communities Great presentation, Garner weaved a narrative that addressed what, exactly, is economic development, how is it achieved and how to augment the process.

“Successful communities have a common vision for the future by its citizens and local government folks,” Garner said. “It’s a desire to unite for the good for the good of the community and to resolve any petty divisiveness that might turn a company off.”

Garner also revealed the trends in the site selection process. He reminded those in attendance that companies are fundamentally profit driven, deadline driven, competitive and comprehensive in their analysis of a region.

“The use of GIS (geographic information system) and the Internet means that the initial site search process is significantly shorter,” Garner indicated. “Speed and accuracy are king.”

The 33-year veteran of the site selection process also documented the importance of project-ready sites to companies in their selection criteria, how incentives are still a driving force for many companies (although he noted he’s hardly a fan of them) and dropped nuggets of information about the competitive screening process practiced in the war rooms of corporate America.

The Local Government Council is comprised solely of the elected and appointed representatives of the 62 local governments and two county governments. The intent is simple: Engage the ideas and perspectives of municipal and county government officials on issues such as planning, zoning, infrastructure and regulation as it relates to understanding of future economic development in the Lehigh Valley.

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