As I See It- The Economic Development Ecosystem, and a Focus on the Role of Regional EDOs

July 24, 2017

As I See It | The Economic Development Ecosystem, and a Focus on the Role of Utility ED Partners

This is the third article in a series about economic development ecosystems. The first two focused on the roles of local and regional EDOs.


Utility ED partners are always at the table, even if they are not often front and center. Their role in the economic development ecosystem is critical.


Utilities know best which sites they have the capacity and readiness to serve. Period. When an EDO does not bring the utility in upfront in the site selection process, there is a good chance that they will not pick the best site for the project. And if this is the case, there is a great risk in that by the time any utility deficiencies at the proposed site are discovered, the community or region will likely be blacklisted for the project. There are two reasons for this:


  • The process has moved along, and it would take too much time to start over with another site.
  • The site selector has lost confidence in the local and regional EDOs and doesn’t trust them to provide the correct information.

As I have often pointed out, there is no downside to having the utility partner at the table at the beginning of every project.

A related benefit of bringing utility ED partners in early is that many utilities offer incentives that must be confirmed BEFORE projects are announced. You’re not serving the business well if you are not making it aware of all the incentives available to it, and this is not the best way to start a relationship with a business that is investing in your community.


In addition to site knowledge and incentives, utilities frequently support capacity building in their regions. This is a hugely important investment that can provide a sustainable competitive advantage for EDOs in its service territory. Utilities can also jointly sponsor capacity building programs and tools. States such as Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, and others are leading such initiatives


Lastly, utilities can help with marketing and recruitment activities. Turnover among utility ED professionals is notoriously low. As a result, many utility ED professionals are seasoned pros, with longstanding relationships with site selectors and lots of project experience. Utilities also have intelligence from their networks of key account managers/account executives, giving them early intelligence on companies looking to relocate or expand.

In short, utility ED partners are important players in economic development and should be included early and often in project discussions.

To learn more about how our suite of services can help your ED ecosystem really hum, visit our new website at or give us a call at 608.663.9218. I or a member of my team would be happy to speak with you.