Conference Gems: 2023 IEDC Leadership Summit

February 3, 2023 Rachel Selsky, AICP

Conference GemsThis past week I had the pleasure of attending the IEDC Leadership Summit in Tucson, AZ. Our conference coincided with the annual Tucson Gem Show, which hosts 65,000 people from all over the world. Talk about a great case study of a community building on its unique assets to attract visitors and create economic activity! Even from just the little I could see from the outside, the gems and minerals at this event were impressive and the spending going on throughout Tucson was apparent.

I spent a little extra time in the city on the back end due to a flight delay, (there were many travel issues for everyone due to winter weather — I hope everyone eventually got home!) but it was certainly time well spent with new and old friends and colleagues.

I wanted to share some of the gems that I collected throughout the conference:

  • Mayor Gameros from the City of Globe, AZ, talked about the importance of leading with integrity and transparency. He noted that these characteristics are especially important in rural communities that need to have patience and trust in the often slow economic development process. The importance of rural communities taking ownership of the future and not waiting for others to come and save the day was a big takeaway for me from this conversation.
  • It can take years to become an overnight success. A number of speakers talked about the importance of the “behind the scenes” work in economic development, and how it can take years and significant effort (and investment) before anything will happen that others can actually see. This was brought up in the great conversation about the impact of the CHIPS and Science Act, which detailed how different states have worked over decades to prepare for and attract investment from the semiconductor industry.
  • Dr. Dante Lauretta talked about his many years of work as the principal investigator of the OSIRIS-Rex mission and the fascinating work out of the University of Arizona. This was an inspiring story of persistence. The mission was approved in 2011 (after years of trying), launched in 2016, collected a sample of the asteroid Bennu in 2020, and will return in September 2023. The University of Arizona is leading the way with significant research and development in this space (and about Space) and workforce development for the future.
  • A session about leaders experiencing failure led to a great discussion about how we will all fail; you can’t be afraid of that. As long as you are learning from the failure, it should still be considered a success. This was a valuable conversation and brought many people together to share how they handled failure in their careers.
  • The Designing Impactful Metrics for Equitable Economic Development session at which our Vice President and Director of Entrepreneurship, Christa Franzi, co-presented was standing room only. People in the room were really excited to hear about the many data sources that can be accessed for measuring equity and how Local First Arizona and REDI Cincinnati are using this information to track the success of their programs in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Christa also provided examples of how Camoin Associates uses equity-driven data analysis and tracking to help our clients break down business barriers for underrepresented entrepreneurs and small businesses from Hartford, CT, to Prince William County, VA. The panel then facilitated a thought-provoking discussion with the audience about the importance of not only tracking and reporting on the data but using it to craft policy and inform decision-making.
  • The final plenary session included a panel of site selectors talking about what they see as the major changes in the coming years and how communities can be best prepared. This was a really strong session as it provided clear recommendations about what information is important when location decisions are being made, including workforce availability, up-to-date infrastructure information, available sites, permitting processes, and resilience in utilities.
  • There is no better feeling than warm sunshine hitting your face in January.

I enjoyed this year’s IEDC Leadership Summit and am looking forward to connecting with colleagues again next year. Let me know if you took away any other gems from the conference.