The Art and Dubious Science of Targeting and Picking Winners

If you are an economic developer, you can’t avoid it. You have to choose to help some companies and not help others. Resources are limited, some firms are too controversial to help, and some firms and sectors are supposeably more likely to positively impact your community. Be it manufacturing, green or technology, the right target revitalizes your community. The wrong target gets you a newspaper article and a pink slip. Every community is in a race to be most competitive and targeting the right firms, sectors, and gazelles is the way you win the race. But don’t fall off the horse!

Deauville-Clairefontaine_obstacle_2The media call it “picking winners” and they are quick to criticize when your so called winner comes in last place, or doesn’t create the jobs or pay the taxes they said they would. There is a Solyandra in the closet of every economic developer.

The think tanks and academics throw pages of data at you and tell you these are the sectors and firms you must work with if your community is to stand a prayer at being competitive. They call it “targeting” and targeting their politically correct sectors earns you a seat in heaven. Target a politically incorrect sector and they call it “deal-making”, a misappropriation of scarce tax payers dollars, and an abuse. Either its a gazelle or a skunk.

Need some help figuring out who to help and who can be safely ignored? Try any one of these articles and reviews and you will be guaranteed to be even more uncertain but maybe bit more effective.

That is The Art & Dubious Science of Targeting & Picking Winners.