Across the United States of America people are increasingly interested in ensuring that government expenditures are well spent. We can note this interest at all levels of government ranging from local to national scales. Indeed, increased accountability is a paramount theme of the new Congress. As well, in all of its manifestations, it is a critical element of the "quality movement" that is becoming acculturated in both the private and public sectors.
The notion of accountability implies measurement: In exchange for public tax dollars allocated, increased value will be gained. All government organizations know this intuitively. Yet, few government organizations have attempted to demonstrate, in a comprehensive manner, how this actually happens. This is a particular problem for economic development agencies. Yes, we can show jobs gained or saved per dollar expended and yes, we can show tax base enhanced (or stabilized) per dollar expended. Beyond this, we show very little.
It is clear that we are not demonstrating what we do to the fullest extent possible. Furthermore, it is clear that the methods that we have been using to account for our work are simplistic and explain very little about our true accomplishments. In short, the move to increased accountability will compel us to tell the full story of what we have actually accomplished. Perhaps more importantly, it will help us to gain the support needed to continue to provide our services across the nation. This is the reason for this study. All economic development professionals need to better explain their activities and trumpet their success. With this point in mind, the authors undertook an analysis of how economic development officials are now measuring their activities and, perhaps more importantly, how they could measure their outcomes. Our findings are in six sections. Section one summarizes the methods used to undertake the study. Section two highlights the purposes and types of evaluations commonly undertaken. Section three explains the types of activities that typically are ( or could be) measured by economic development professionals. Section four focuses upon the problems and issues that are impacting how evaluation occurs. Section five presents, in a checklist fashion, a standard means that could be applied by economic development officials to demonstrate their outcomes. Section six is a brief closing thought urging all of us to become more involved in measuring our work. It is too important not to measure!
Section 4: Pages 1-54
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