Economic Development is a Contact Sport!

You’re not likely to break a leg or wind up on the disabled list but high numbers of high quality contacts are critical to your success. I have a great memory, but it’s short so I’ve learned a few tricks. 

I was told that economic developers tend to know two or three times as many people as the average person. By itself that’s not a big advantage – just more names and faces to remember. The key thing is to associate a person with the right assets and attributes. 

As an economic developer, your success and reputation are dependent on your ability to connect people with others who can solve their need or opportunity. Other than a photographic memory, what can you do to improve your contact game? 

You can start with networking skills to identify leaders in various fields but again, that gets confusing unless you can save and store that information in a contact database until you need it. Although cumbersome, use as many fields as possible so that you can search on more than just a name (for the good but short memory).

Consider a client relationship management system (CRM) for you and your community. My colleagues and I use Executive Pulse for our BR&E projects but it has much more utility than just to support a BR&E project. In addition to surveys, you can save details about issues, needs, products and services that can make you look like a genius when you find and connect local businesses that can help one another. You will also have done your community a service in documenting local knowledge, insights and services provided by local businesses. Your client businesses will be happy because you’ve remembered important things about them.  

Contact sports don’t need to result in injuries if you play the game right and have the right equipment and technology to play like a star.


Art Lawson B.Sc, M.Sc, Ec.D is a McSweeney Economic Development Associate Consultant and pioneer in community economic development, having made Ontario one of the leading jurisdictions in the world for bottom-up economic strategic planning and development.  He established the regional team system for economic development programs and services to small urban and rural communities for the Province of Ontario and led their award-winning BR&E program in over 100 communities, enabling local retention and development of 1000’s of jobs.


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