Investing in Fox Cities Economic Development

September, 2014

by: Larry Burkhardt, CEcD
Executive Vice President
Fox Cities Regional Partnership

The Fox Cities Regional Partnership was formed by the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce as an affiliate of the Chamber, and structured as a public/private partnership.  As such, the Regional Partnership has a segregated financial structure, which accounts for its revenues and expenses distinct from all other functions and programs of the Chamber.

Whether as an independent organization or aligned with a Chamber of Commerce, the vast majority of economic development organizations are structured as public/private partnerships.  The exceptions to this fact would be a very small number of exclusively private sector funded organizations, and economic departments totally within municipal and county governments.

In contrast to the Chamber of Commerce, which generates revenue through membership dues, sponsorships and events, the Regional Partnership’s activities are supported by Investors, who provide support based on their commitment to the economic growth of the community.  Those who chose to invest in the efforts to enable economic development in the Fox Cities Region do so not as much to receive direct benefit in the the same way that a membership organization might offer, but to advance the fortunes of the community and grow the primary job base.

When those efforts are successful, the Investors recognize that they will benefit–in some cases directly, but in most cases indirectly.  As an example, while a local bank may not necessarily secure the direct business banking activity of a company new to the community, it will likely see some increase in general banking activity as a result of the new payroll and business-to-business activity that the company brings to the area.  That activity may take the form of new deposits and personal checking accounts of the company’s employees, increased activity resulting from the business activity that those employees produce for others of the banks customers, etc.

Overall, those who invest in local economic development efforts understand that they–as will all in the community–benefit from direct, indirect and induced economic activity.  In this way, the economic development organization fulfills its mission of enhancing the quality of life for local residents.

The rational for the public/private structure is simply recognition that economic development requires the support and participation of both government and the private sector in order to be successful.  Each has distinct roles and responsibilities with regard to growing the local economy.  At the risk of over-simplification, the public sector is in large part responsible for the enhancement of what is generally termed the business climate.  Whether in planning for and installing necessary infrastructure (such as streets, water and sewer service), providing for public safety and other necessary services, or in establishing a reasonable regulatory framework, the public sector determines whether or not to invest its risk dollars.  The private sector then invests in those business activities that employ people and generate wealth.

The Fox Cities Regional Partnership enjoys the support of some 65 Investors and Supporters.  Of these, 18 are from public sector entities around the Fox Cities and 47 are private sector employers–both large and small.  It is no overstatement to indicate that the work of the Regional Partnership could not continues without the support of these companies and governments that understand the critical importance of growing the base of primary employers in our region.