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August 25, 2009

Brian Anderson: Fall and football

The weather this weekend was awesome. It was our first hint of fall weather that is welcomed by most after a long hot summer. This weekend will be the official start to football season.

We will excitedly spend our Friday evenings and Saturdays pulling for and cheering for our favorite teams. Our teams and the players on them have spent weeks and months preparing for the start of the season and squaring off against their competitors.

I spent this past weekend enjoying the hint of fall weather visiting colleges with my son. What an exciting time in his life and his parents? Looking at different schools, considering all that each has to offer, and at some point deciding what will fit his needs for life after high school. As much as I want to think he is only considering the academic side of college life, I know that social activities like Saturday football and Greek life are heavyweights in his decision making process.

Call me crazy or just plain weird, I found myself thinking like an economic development prospect. We were viewing schools just like companies view communities. We toured each school’s hard infrastructure (buildings, grounds, dorms, etc). And we asked questions aimed at understanding their soft infrastructure (academic rigor, quality of life programming, social activities, campus safety, etc).

Companies look at communities in just the same way. They consider our hard infrastructure (geographic location, transportation assets, utilities, shovel-ready sites, etc). Soft infrastructure (climate, topography, schools, health care, housing, etc.) is also important to the decision-making process.

Our community has to prepare for competition just like our favorite football teams. Given our limited experience in competing in the pure economic development arena, we have had our two-a-days getting ready for game night. Our community, in four short years, authorized and created a Joint Development Authority, whose sole task is to lead the economic development efforts of our community. With a staff of one for most of those four years, the Joint Development Authority has:

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