By Amy Holloway, President

When the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) began preparing the 10-county metro’s new five-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), it knew it wanted the planning process to encourage inclusivity. ARC started with the question: What must be done to ensure the metro Atlanta region remains a vibrant, thriving region that is competitive on a global stage? For ARC and its partners, achieving this required a holistic approach that looked at every opportunity to catalyze economic growth, not limited by topics typically covered in a CEDS. In June 2017, ARC engaged Avalanche to facilitate the region’s CATLYST Strategy and address the question of how to create a more thriving, competitive region. The answer? Be a region that works for everyone by empowering economic mobility. Put people first and decrease disparities. Doing so will result in a more robust talent pool and long-term economic momentum. The lessons learned from the process are relevant to any community – from small cities to major metros – interested in creating a CEDS that is primed for a modern, dynamic economy.

  • Outcomes change when you put people in the center of a strategic plan. As CATLYST evolved, stakeholders emphasized the point that the region is only as strong as its residents. Meeting human needs such as healthcare, housing, transit, and education is as critical to a region’s economic competitiveness as job creation and capital investment. Addressing these topics in a CEDS requires economic developers to include new partners and ideas. Siloed approaches to economic development no longer work in a people-centric strategy.
  • More extensive engagement is needed to put people in the center of a strategic plan. For CATLYST to be a people-centric strategy, the planning process needed to engage a broad diversity of perspectives. Nearly 2,500 people provided input that shaped CATLYST. To begin, ARC established a 65-member Strategy Committee comprised of regional leaders from the private, nonprofit, education, and public sectors. Avalanche facilitated five, two-hour workshops with the Committee over six months. In addition, Avalanche met with more than 150 stakeholders, conducted a survey of more than 2,000 area residents, and facilitated community open houses across the region.
  • Collective impact is the best framework for implementing a people-centric strategic plan. The only way to effectively address interrelated topics like affordability, talent, transit, and economic growth is through collaboration among people from different sectors. CATLYST’s implementation will occur through a series of discrete 12-18-month projects in which diverse volunteer teams assemble, take action together, then disassemble once the projects are complete. Over the next five years, multiple projects will take place that move the region toward its vision of being a place that works for everyone.

Click here for more information on CATLYST and to view videos highlighting the first four projects emerging from the strategy.  And, please let us know how we can assist your community with creating its own modern CEDS.