Local Community Involvement in Economic Development Projects

Chardae Caine
Fiscal Analyst

Edward Penner
Senior Economist

This brief provides information on how communities collaboratively prepare for economic development projects.

Considerations for Economic Development Projects

Preparing for new business ventures in a community includes many stakeholders, such as economic development leaders, universities and colleges, housing developers, and other current business leaders. These stakeholders collaborate to define the community’s assets and opportunities with input from the residents.

To begin the conversation, communities conduct a needs assessment to determine what resources are currently available. Additionally, community leaders survey residents to determine their interests in their community, priorities of all stakeholders, and issues that need to be addressed before considering a new business. Some options for collecting information are conducting written surveys via mail, which would cover several topics and assist in determining which factors matter to the most residents. Topics that could be addressed in these surveys include housing, child care and education, transportation, and health. For some communities, a lack of housing or child care may already be an issue. A new business with new residents entering the community may intensify these issues.

Another option would be conducting door-to-door or over-the-phone interviews to determine what matters most to residents. Knowing the concerns of residents early can help to mitigate issues before welcoming a new business to the community.

The Community Tool Box (https://ctb.ku.edu/en/table-of-contents/assessment) is a service of the Center for Community Health and Development at the University of Kansas. The Community Tool Box has several resources available regarding how to engage communities in needs assessments and how to use that data to shape policy.
Determining community priorities at the onset of the economic development expansion process can help identify which companies may be the best fit. This can help companies understand a community’s goals and needs, and allows residents to have a voice in the process. Community leadership has an opportunity to collaborate with residents and other stakeholders to prioritize the needs and desires of all, set goals based on those needs, and make decisions that best benefit the community.

Case Study: The Panasonic Mega-project

These concepts were applied by communities and stakeholders in northeast Kansas in anticipation of the Panasonic mega-project. For Panasonic, having a skilled workforce was one important decision-making factor in where to locate a new facility. Panasonic also considered the tax and business incentives provided by the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) program.

For more information on APEX, see the 2023 Briefing Book article “Job Creation Programs.”

Johnson County Community College and Kansas City Kansas Community College both contributed to the workforce training section of the proposal and identified how they and K-12 education can support the training of employees and general workforce training needs for the company.

Panasonic estimates hiring 500 employees every quarter, and the non-credit component of the community colleges in the surrounding area can assist in meeting that goal.

The community colleges outlined a five step approach for supporting the project:

  1. Providing pre-hiring support through focusing on community outreach, building a working relationship with Panasonic Energy of North America (PENA), and creating a consortium of stakeholders;
  2. Conducting a training needs assessment based on PENA benchmark standards and training, which also includes developing a training matrix and conducting a labor market assessment;
  3. Designing and delivering customized training by identifying various paths to employment, developing new curriculum and modifying current curriculum, and leveraging what is already available;
  4. Measuring outcomes through developing an evaluation and assessment strategy, monitoring key performance indicators, and developing plans for continuous improvement; and
  5. Providing ongoing training and support with a continuous improvement loop for potential and current Panasonic employees.