Jeff Finkle is the president and CEO of the International Economic Development Council, and was recently the keynote speaker at SPARK’s Annual Meeting. Paul Krutko, president and CEO of SPARK, got the chance to sit down with Jeff and discuss the economy from a national perspective. Here are a few excerpts from the conversation:
Paul: While I’m very familiar with the International Economic Development Council, I don’t know that our audience is. So could you tell us a little bit about what the International Economic Development Council is?
Jeff: We are the membership group/organization for people who work in the field of economic development. So, throughout the state of Michigan, there are city, county, state economic development officials, public-private partnerships like SPARK, some chambers of commerce, people who work in the utility industry who support economic development. We are their primary membership organization. Their job is to create, retain, and expand jobs, increase tax base and enhance wealth for people who live within their service areas. Our job is to help keep those people educated, watch for trends and produce timely publications. We also watch what’s going on with Congress and the administration.
Paul: What are some of IEDC’s key initiatives and programs in supporting the economic development profession?
Jeff: The first thing we try to do is make sure we’re covering all of the bases of economic development, and economic development is quite broad in scope. It can range from downtown development, neighborhood-based small, retail development to technology commercialization, technology development. Throughout the course of any given year, we try to make sure we’ve done a mixture of those. We have done some specific activities in the area of manufacturing. We’ve done a fair amount of work in entrepreneurship. We are starting to do some work in performance measures.
Paul: So, one of the areas that I’ve been involved in is the Economic Development Research Partnership. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Jeff: EDRP is a different class of membership within our organization. Many of the elite organizations have chosen to participate in helping to provide quality research and education for our entire membership. Ann Arbor SPARK is obviously a member of that, and it has been helpful in creating more of these in-depth research papers, a nearly 200-page paper on the state of manufacturing, and what economic developers can do in the manufacturing space. I think there is a fair amount of upcoming work in research measurements, which are two of the things I talked about in terms of current trends. So, it does help organizationally, for the people involved in EDRP, the staff, and to our membership at large, up-to-date research on those topics.
Paul: Well, I’ve been honored to be a member of the board and serve in many leadership boards of the IEDC. Next year, I’ll have the distinct honor of being the chair of the board, and Ann Arbor will be hosting an IEDC conference next June in 2013. We’re really excited here at Ann Arbor SPARK, and I think the community in general, about hosting the conference, and planning is already underway. What would you hope to showcase in Ann Arbor and our region in southeast Michigan?
Jeff: What has become interesting to me is that this particular conference has allowed us to take a laboratory and examine their industry clusters in a great deal of focus, and allow other people from throughout North America and the world. It’s not that much of an international conference in the same way that our annual conference is, but to kick the tires of a region.