In working with more than 500 economic development groups over the past 17 years, we have confirmed again and again the three pillars of success for economic development organizations: Alignment, Readiness and Differentiation.

While all three are required for success, alignment offers the biggest upside when well executed.


Why is alignment so important? As the economic development universe has changed (see “the New Three Legs of the Stool”, for example), it has become more complex. It is also imperative to have a bigger tent, not a smaller tent, when it comes to community engagement these days.

In our experience, alignment is also correlated with a higher level of community aspiration. What I mean by that is highly aligned communities tend to measure success as more than just jobs and investment; they tend to also seek outcomes related to concepts like economic equity and economic mobility. Having more – and more diverse – voices around the table tends to expand the organization’s aspirations and ultimately its impact.

Transformational economic development leaders leverage this high level of alignment to create bold futures for their regions.  We’re currently working with several forward-oriented regions that defy being correlated by size, location, or economic performance. Instead, attitude and vision are the common denominators. What else differentiates these leaders?

One of the main traits is these organizations’ leaders are asking difficult questions even when their region is not in crisis! In fact, on the surface, many of the areas they represent might be considered to be rolling along just fine, which leads to the second trait.

The second trait is an interest in shaping and creating their future, not having outside trends or worse yet, entropy, define them or their communities. They want to play an active role in how their regions will continue to succeed a generation from now, not just take for granted it will happen.

A third unique trait all of these transformational leaders share is genuine, open questioning of “conventional wisdom” and the status quo.

It may sound simple, but without a great deal of alignment, leadership, and trust, it’s impossible to achieve any of these things.

At Ady Advantage, our mission is literally “To make the world a better place” one community and region at a time. Thank you to all the ED pros out there for whom we have been honored to work side by side. And here’s to the residents and business owners in your communities who will benefit from that work for generations to come.

Let’s discuss how your community can create better alignment and shape its future before there is a crisis.