By Amy Holloway

The results of our 11th survey of 175+ economic development organizations are in. Prospect activity is up, but jobs per prospect are steadily declining (10% drop between 2013 and 2014). We’ve predicted this for a while, but this is the first ED Index that confirms that the trend is real.

What does it mean when job creation is no longer the primary measure of success? It leaves many EDOs torn. Should job growth continue to be the true indicator of your community’s well being and your EDO’s performance?

In March, we attended two professional retreats with executives from across the country. This was the most talked about subject among attendees.

Candid conversations revealed that many EDOs don’t track metrics and don’t have strategic plans. If that’s the case, stop what you’re doing and create a strategy. Set goals, identify targets, and determine what your community needs to do to be a better place for your targets. Internally, how should you improve your product? Externally, how should you communicate to your audiences?

If volume of jobs is no longer the primary driver of economic health, what does it mean for you as a professional in the field? Should you add to your skillsets? Adapt your internal resources and relationships with private and public sector partners?

We’re seeing that, more than ever before, economic developers are in the position of community facilitators. Are you prepared to switch gears from external sales into becoming a lead convener and cheerleader for community development? Is a more holistic approach possible in your region?

Change is now happening swiftly. What can you do to unify your community’s definition of economic development and inform people that job creation is not the only indicator of economic health?

Don’t be torn about job quantity versus community quality. Quality rules.