Susan Dobbe-Leahy

The Secret Sauce of Economic Development

Economic development might sound like a boring topic, but it’s actually the secret ingredient to collectively attracting, retaining and growing businesses at home. Susan Dobbe-Leahy, of Dobbe Marketing, in Crystal Lake, shares why this critical tool can impact your marketing strategy.

Susan Dobbe-Leahy

Economic development sounds like a boring topic, but after 30 years in the business arena, those two words together attract my attention. They are equivalent to “The Secret Sauce and Magic Grease that Bring Money to our Community.”

It’s all about making money through business:
Creating incubators to foster new business
Attracting businesses to the region
Growing businesses
Sustaining businesses in tough times
Retaining businesses in your community to provide jobs and customers
Connecting businesses to enhance local prosperity
Locating businesses in areas that are accessible to workers, technology, transportation and distribution

Collectively, our county and state governments seek to attract, retain and expand business growth to improve the quality of life for residents. It’s a team effort comprised of manufacturers, retailers, government, academia, entrepreneurs and corporations. Leaders from each of these factions join to strategize on the region’s unique attractions to businesses and workers.

National networks for economic development also serve in the implementation of growth strategies. For example, most of the area’s municipalities have an economic development director or manager. They participate in national retail business expos to connect with major retailers seeking new locations in places like Rockford, Machesney Park, Crystal Lake, Barrington, Cary, Johnsburg, Elgin or the Tri-Cities, for example.

Beyond retail and franchise businesses, there are global networks for manufacturing companies that assist in site selection worldwide. Local economic development teams may be working with a German, Swiss, French or Asian company seeking a new U.S. headquarters. Local sources can submit available land and existing buildings to a global site selector, creating something like a Craigslist for commercial property and warehouses.

Starting out as an entrepreneur, your vision is narrow. Many decisions are based upon the limited scope of your expected growth. Collaborating early with regional economic development professionals can expand your potential.

Beyond seeking services to help you select location, financing, vendors and resources, economic development groups can help you to build your customer base, expand facilities, and widen your networks.

Once your business is established, you may consider volunteering to serve on the local EDC. I found being an investor, and later a board member, in the McHenry County Economic Development Corporation built my network and business while informing me on growth in the region.

As a strategy for generating and retaining members, the MCEDC created a Business Champions award program. Divided into levels by number of employees, county businesses are nominated and recognized for their creativity, tenacity, endurance and commitment to the community. Honors are bestowed at an annual dinner where over 500 people attend to hear the stories of their colleagues as well as a national keynote speaker.

Take the time to recognize the opportunity available to you and your business by connecting with your regional Economic Development organization. Here are a few around our area:
McHenry County Economic Development Corporation
Lake County Partners
Elgin Development Group
Choose DuPage Economic Development Alliance
Cook County Economic Development
Rockford Area Economic Development Corporation
Growth Dimensions (Boone County)

Consider adding the Secret Sauce and Magic Grease to your business plan that is Economic Development. It may be just the ingredient you’ve been missing.