Recently, Project Manager Dustin Akers attended the American Planning Association's National Conference in Chicago. Dustin serves on the APA Economic Development Division's Leadership Board as the Co-Education Coordinator for the Division. In that role, he coordinates an annual webinar series on economic development trends and issues for industry professionals, as well as the webinars are used as continuing education for AICP certified planners. The most recent webinar featured Oklahoma City's economic development programs and the MAPs legacy. Here is what Dustin had to say about the APA Conference:
Spending a week in a great and diverse city like Chicago, surrounded by the nation's best and brightest planners, is a real eye-opener for what the future can hold for your own community. The Economic Development Division hosted a facilitated discussion on what planners' role is in job creation. The question was posed, "Can planners literally create jobs?" The overwhelming response from the overcrowded room was no...not literally. But what we can do as planners and economic developers to help create jobs includes the strategies of diversification and differentiation. Diversification and differentiation are two of the keys to having a competitive edge in the ever increasing difficult task of job creation and retention.
Diversification of the industries that make up your employment base provides an increased opportunity for people from a variety of backgrounds, training, and education levels to find employment. Recent studies have shown that younger generations are placing a priority on living in a desirable community, instead of simply chasing employment. If your community has a decent quality of life, having diverse employment opportunities makes the decision to relocate to your community even easier. Differentiation is when you identify your community's assets and use those as leverage to attract employers. Instead of competing with other localities, you can differentiate yourself by promoting the unique characteristics that define your community. When you are able to differentiate your community and provide a high quality of life, job creators, and therefore jobs, will follow.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett was the guest speaker during the Policy Plenary session, "Growing Vital Communities." In the standing room only ballroom, Mayor Cornett told the story of Oklahoma City, its visionary leaders who sought to create a better community through self-investment, and of the fascinating revitalization that was a result. Having your community as one of the featured sessions at the nation's largest conference for the industry gives you a sense of pride, and more importantly, motivation, to continue the work that has brought Oklahoma City to where it is today.