Should Talent-Driven Economic Development Be the New Model?

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Traditional economic development has long focused on business attraction, expansion, and retention. However, a different model – talent-driven economic development – has been slowly gaining steam among researchers and professionals in the field. The COVID-19 pandemic supercharged the prevalence of remote work and has been a catalyst to bring this kind of economic development to the forefront.

In a recent opinion piece published in USA Today, Bill Oesterle, the co-founder and former CEO of Angie’s List and co-founder of MakeMyMove, a marketplace connecting remote workers looking for a place to live with communities offering incentives, makes the pitch that talent-driven economic development should be the focus of state and local governments as we emerge from the pandemic.

“Remote workers are novel because they bring their jobs with them. In economic development terms, they are a “two-for.” They add a person to the population, and they add a job to the overall job base. In essence, the economic value — and therefore the power — of the job they hold has shifted from their employer to themselves. The worker controls where that job goes. This means that talent-first economic development is finally a practical reality. Think of this as the advent of retail economic development.”

On a per worker basis, many existing programs that are proving successful are costing less than the per job incentives offered by states in more traditional business attraction programs. At the time of publication, 33 states and cities had created incentive programs to entice remote workers to relocate in their communities. However, no significant talent-driven incentive programs have been developed yet in Maryland.

At the MACo Summer Conference, an expert panel will discuss issues like this and the role counties play in fostering a swift, sustainable turnaround in an economy that looks significantly different than it did before the pandemic.

The “Economic Development – Taking Care of Business Post Pandemic ” session, hosted by the Maryland Economic Development Association, will be held Friday, August 20, 2021, from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm.

The MACo Summer Conference will be held August 18-21 at the Roland Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. This year’s theme is “Resilient. Responsive…Ready.”

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference: