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Most Important Efforts in Economic Development Happen at Home

Most important efforts in economic development happen right here at home.

Community development in some instances is really complex but then again in most instances it’s not. Where do most people want to live? In a town with good schools, safe streets, places to shop and places to eat. Amenities such as beautiful city parks and beaches and recreational activities also carry a lot of weight. But in the end, they want their business to be successful and to be happy.

Depending on which economic development magazine you read or which presentation you are listening to at the time, it is widely accepted that anywhere from 70-90 percent of local job growth is created by the companies and the entrepreneurs that already reside in your community.

Some find that fact to be amazing. How is that possible? A lot has to do with the fact that we don’t pay much attention as a community or a nation to the small good things that happen around us. A lot of us want the sizzle, what’s going to create the biggest buzz – and we don’t pay attention to the good that is right in front of us.

Twice today, from two separate people, I heard them comment that tourists and people who visit Port Lavaca comment on all its good qualities that we take for granted. We see the fleas, they see the cute puppy.

There are very few companies that are going to relocate 100-1,000 new jobs. But there are over 1,500 economic development and chambers of commerce chasing them. Just nationally. That’s long odds no matter you live.

Yes, those projects when they are successfully located in a community they make for big headlines and awards for the conquering organization.

But this makes it easy for the businesses and the people already are in your community to be overlooked and taken for granted. You already know them - the ones that sponsor the softball or soccer team. The ones that will help with the community food pantry or volunteer time at the school or a chamber of commerce event.

The steady people and businesses that are here and have been here. And want to be here. These are the organizations and the people that, statistically proven, will create 70-90 percent of the new job growth in our community.

I began my career in community development as the director of a business retention and expansion program and it was the best way to start because every day I was visiting our local merchants and businesses. That experience taught me if people believe you are TRULY interested in helping them, they will talk to you and appreciate your consideration - and I learned a great deal during that time.

Many businesses we assisted were unaware of the resources and programs available. And there were many different issues identified. If their lease was going to expire could we help them find another location in town or talk to the property owner. If the parking lot was too small could we investigate other alternatives. One complaint I heard often was the city snow removal was never fast enough down their street. Luckily, that shouldn’t be a problem in Port Lavaca.

But the point is the Chamber was invested and engaged with the business community and wanted to know how to help. Some companies did move. Often it was out of our control due to financial or personal preferences. But there many more who we helped to stay and helped to grow.

That is why the Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce is starting a business retention program as a part of our 2015 action plan. It is vital to make sure we are paying attention to the merchants, companies and people that are here. We want to visit with local businesses and hear what issues are troubling or hindering growth. We want to inform if there is a relevant program or effort we can make. To make sure we are listening to the people that will be responsible for the greatest amount of job growth and already have invested in this community.

In correlation with this program initiative the Chamber is hosting a community breakfast featuring a speaker who will provide information that could be extremely relevant to some of our local businesses.

On April 14th, The Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce will be hosting Joe Humphreys, Director of the Small Business Development Center with University of Houston-Victoria to discuss programs and services the SBDC provides. Some of these programs involve assistance with accounting, finance, loan packaging, training workshops, online training opportunities and more. This event will be held at the Bauer Community Center on Tuesday, April 14th at 7:30 am

This event is free and open to the public and not just for members of the Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce. Even If you are not a member, please come join us. See how . Give us the opportunity to show how we can assist and help our local business – your business. Join us and be a part of Port Lavaca flourishing as many know it can.

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