The economic development community frequently produces reports of economic progress in the form of scorecards, indices, and benchmarks. There are many good examples of these and they vary in scope and focus. This month in our PolicyOne newsletter we highlight a recent such effort that we produced for the Portland Community Chamber,Portland’s Economic Scorecard 2010. This is the second time we have produced a scorecard for the Chamber and we also produce an annualMaine Innovation Index for the Maine Office of Innovation.
In developing these types of efforts I have personally examined hundreds of such reports and have learned greatly from them in terms of data availability, trends, measurement, and evaluation. But I have also learned that these reports are only as valuable as the actions they assist or influence. Used correctly, these reports can help with many facets of economic and business development including:
- Strategic planning
- Membership services
- Grant writing and PR/communications
The key is not to let these sit on the shelf. They must be used to provide strategic information to develop implement strategies and actions to improve and grow the economy. So, based my experience in both developing these types of reports and using them to implement economic and business development here are key tips to making the most of these reports:
- Integrate into strategic planning – include the resulting information as part of the cycle of strategic planning and action. Plan – implement – evaluate – adjust – repeat. The indicators can help at each and every stage
- Develop and actively utilize an advisory group to assist, monitor and advise on the process – and then use them to help share the information and resulting calls for action
- Be objective – don’t just present those indicators where you are strong. Also present and share those where there you are lagging. Be honest. People, businesses, and taxpayers will appreciate the honesty and objectivity and actually see self-examination as strength if you include plans and strategies to address issues
- Regularly highlight key indicators throughout the year in newsletters, articles, press, presentations, blogs, website, and electronic media – the indicators provide powerful information and have many uses – share and get the info out there! Digital technology makes this easily achievable and affordable. Above all else, let people use and access the data and information. Don’t hold onto it or charge excessive fees for access
- Avoid one-off reports – they quickly become out of date and are ineffective in the long-term – develop regular update and communication schedule – not only with the cost decrease over time the quality will increase as you learn
The Portland Community Chamber and Maine Office of Innovation Projects provide good examples of how these reports can be used. ThePortland’s Economic Scorecard 2010 was initially used to provide context and information and awareness among the business and policymaker community. It was then used to develop specific actions to address key issues/problems that emanated from the data including the need to improve the development review process and regional cooperation. It is now being used to support a local and regional economic vision and plan creation and being updated on an annual basis. As a tool it has brought the Chamber and the City together to collaborate on economic development.
Maine Innovation Index was originally designed and integrated into annual comprehensive evaluation of the State’s investment in R&D and innovation support programs. It has been used for past ten years by the Governor’s Office, Legislature, and Innovation Office to provide guidance for policy and budget development. It is also used as information to assist, businesses, researchers, program mangers with their information needs for planning, advocacy, grant writing and other information needs.