Chamber says “best practices” report can guide state economic development

 A best practices scan of successful and innovative economic development programs and policies developed for Oklahoma policy-makers will provide a road map for the next step of the state’s aggressive economic comeback, state officials said Tuesday (December 18).

The report, “National Best Practices Scan: Economic Development,” identifies and catalogues what authors deem successful and innovative practices within four focus areas of economic development:

· Programs and Initiatives
· Organizational Structure
· Engagement
· Workforce and Talent

The report was commissioned by The State Chamber Research Foundation, Oklahoma Business Roundtable and Oklahoma Department of Commerce, and prepared by Indianapolis-based Thomas P. Miller and Associates.

In comments circulated with a state Chamber press release on the report, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin said, “There’s no question that today’s political and fiscal environment has forced all government programs to operate more strategically and efficiently. In the case of the state’s economic development programs, we must have a laser-like focus on targeted strategies, efficient use of resources and measureable return on investment.

“To best develop these strategies, we can look nationally to see what is working, what is successful and what we might consider implementing in Oklahoma. The ‘National Best Practices Scan’ provides businesses and policy makers with an up-to-date catalog of successful practices, policies, and organizational structures from across the country. My thanks go out to all of those who worked to put this important document together.” 

“So often, the states serve as laboratories of democracy and have innovative solutions to problems. However, those creative solutions are often not shared among states in an effort to improve practices across the country,” said State Chamber Research Foundation President Fred Morgan.

“Our hope is that our state and legislative leaders will be able to use this national best practices scan to glean ideas that can be implemented in our state to help grow our economy and continue the momentum our state has seen in recent years.”
“Oklahoma has made great progress in recent years, and we are considered a leader in economic growth among the states.  But, we must not rest on our recent success or on our unique geographical and natural resources. We can always do better, and one way to do that it is to become more informed on what is working across the national landscape in terms of successful economic development practices,” said Carl Edwards, President of the Oklahoma Business Roundtable. 
“The economic accomplishments in Oklahoma over the past several months are impressive and clearly place Oklahoma as a leader in the nation,” said Tom Miller, President and CEO of Thomas P. Miller and Associates. 

“As we reviewed best practices across the nation, it became clear that, in fact, Oklahoma has become a model state in a number of best practices such as their focus on the existing business base and their efforts around workforce development”.  
The report identifies common characteristics of successful economic development programs, which span across each of the four focus areas:
· Collaboration and cooperation among states, regions, and cities. Successful programs have committed to a  “bottom-up” approach based on regional economic strengths, with a clear agreement of roles and responsibilities for how state leadership, regional partnerships, and local communities work together seamlessly to execute programs. Successful programs have also managed to look beyond local borders and have built regional capacity. This includes the establishment of regional metrics and measures. 

· Unification of delivery systems.  Successful programs have managed to break down silos in various federal and state programs to align resources more strategically and effectively on outcomes. Education, workforce development, and economic development are viewed as a single delivery system where strategies are aligned toward a common vision and shared goals.

· Innovation-based economic development.  Commercialization, entrepreneurship, and other aspects of innovation-based economic development are embraced and accelerated. Traditional economic development organizations focused solely on marketing and recruitment have evolved into venture development organizations that reflect today’s economic environment, especially for startups. Networks of resources for innovation and entrepreneurialism have been developed through collaboration with project funders, legal professionals, financial managers, marketing specialists, colleges and universities, and many others.

· Private sector leadership is actively engaged.  Successful economic development efforts focused on accelerating private sector growth are typically led by the private sector, whose leaders drive strategy and champion state and regional initiatives.

· Use of Asset-Based Strategies.  The report notes that “asset-based” strategies are more successful than “needs-based” strategies. Targeted industry approaches work best when they are based on unique assets and networks that can be leveraged to compete globally, not areas of deficiency that are used to appeal for more state or federal funding.

· Strengthening the Talent Pool.  New efforts to ensure that qualified talent are connected with the unique needs of Oklahoma’s existing businesses are an important ingredient in the state’s economic development approach. Similarly, efficient and effective efforts which enhance the skills and knowledge of the existing and emerging workforce are needed.

· Results Matter: Measure & Market the Bottom Line. The overall economic development program must have a robust system of performance measurement. It is also important to communicate the return on investment in terms that reflect today’s economic realities—a “jobs+” view of economic development—such as new businesses formed, capital raised, exports generated, wages paid, and revenues earned.        

In recent years, Oklahoma’s economic climate has dramatically improved.  In 2011, the state of Oklahoma had a net increase of 41,600 jobs. Its job growth rate ranks third among the states, and its unemployment rate is one of the lowest in the country. These and other indicators demonstrate that Oklahoma’s economy continues to outperform the national economy.
A copy of the full 205-page report is available online here: