“Holistic” is a word we often use in terms of health, as in mind and body working together, or mental and physical health being connected. In general, thinking holistically means that we think about interconnections and inter-workings—not just one specific focus area.

I think it’s more important now than ever before, no matter your industry, to think holistically about how your business fits into the landscape. And that’s how I see the economic development field growing and evolving. It makes it harder sometimes for the public to understand what our work as economic developers entails. But hopefully this column will explain how the field is currently growing and changing!

My colleague Robin Fitzpatrick, President of the Alliance, and I soaked in the experience of our statewide Pennsylvania Economic Development Association’s annual conference last week in King of Prussia. Networking and partnering with our fellow PEDA members, on an Adams County level, a state level, and even a national level, is more vital than ever before. Here are a few nuggets we gleaned from gathering with our counterparts across the state:

  • Economic development projects themselves are broader by definition, compared to those we oversaw 20 years ago. Today, projects are mixed-use to better serve a wide variety of needs in our communities. In the past, these projects were typically industrial or commercial, period.
  • There’s a greater focus on the individual workers residing within our economic development agency areas today. We are now focusing on support systems, tech training, public transportation, affordable housing, and the list goes on and on. Look through our website, social media, and recent eBlasts, and you’ll see this is the case! The Alliance, like our economic development partners across the state, are taking a more holistic interest in workforce development rather than—in the past—being hyper-focused on how many jobs each economic development project created (although that number is still important today).
  • Public-private partnerships are more vital to our communities’ success (defined as a thriving economy, healthy communities) than ever before.
  • More Americans are thinking holistically about where they want to live than ever before. Due to the pandemic, the popularity of remote work, the reshuffling of priorities, and evaluating more affordable locations, 42% of Americans have either moved or thought about moving since March 2020.
  • The above statistic means we as economic development agencies have the opportunity to market our communities as desirable, affordable locations with a holistic quality of life these “movers” are seeking. Are you someone who has moved to Adams County? Think about your why. Chances are, all of us have met many people who have purposefully moved to Adams County over the years. Think about their reasons why!
  • While remote workers can live anywhere, we can’t leave Adams County employers behind. Talent attraction is evolving, and we need to evolve with it. We are in the process of gathering input, to help us see a more holistic view of our Adams County community’s needs. We continue to schedule “Engage!” visits to meet with employers and assess their talent pipeline needs, so that we can better prepare and anticipate (rather than react).

I think one of the most exciting aspects of economic development is that the field is constantly evolving and adapting, specific to each community it serves. We are continually challenged to stay on top of trends, meet community needs, and exceed expectations for thriving economic success. 

Kaycee Kemper is Vice President of Adams Economic Alliance, which comprises three organizations: The Adams County Economic Development Corporation (ACEDC), the Adams County Industrial Development Authority (ACIDA) and the Adams County General Authority (ACGA). For more information, see adamsalliance.org, or follow us on Twitter (@AdamsAlliance), Facebook (Facebook.com/AdamsAlliance) and LinkedIn (Adams Economic Alliance).