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Featured Contributor: Kadie Ward

/ February 3, 2014

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Featured Contributor: Kadie Ward

For the newest edition of our Featured Contributor series, I chatted with Kadie Ward, Founder of Build Strong Cities. Kadie is one of our regular contributors and wrote three of our top posts of 2013. Here’s what she had to say about her work in economic development.

Tell me how you first got involved in economic development? How long have you been in the field? Where are you now? Kadie Ward - SmallI’ve been working in economic development for 12 years.  I joined my local Chamber of Commerce during my third year of University and immediately gravitated to policy and communications.  I was interested in how national, provincial and local policy shaped economic growth, and how we, as civic leaders, communicated the impact policy had on our local economies.  My formal career began at the London Chamber of Commerce as Director of Marketing Communication.  I soon moved to the City of London’s economic development agency to lead their marketing and communications portfolio.  After creating and launching several successful international campaigns and gaining a handful of awards, I decided to start working independently to support transitioning and emerging cities create their local economic development strategies and place branding campaigns.

What has surprised you most about working in economic development? Global supply and value-chains that link nations and thousands of municipalities has made the local the most important site for economic development. That’s a big shift from traditional thinking about foreign direct investment!  And yet, communication technology and the knowledge economy have almost made the local boundary-less! The paradoxes of globalization have created more opportunities for cities to differentiate themselves – their economic assets, unique culture and heritage, and competitive advantage.  In a way, I think this has been an unexpected rise of the city!

What do you find most challenging about economic development? And most rewarding? Economic development challenges vary according to nation states.  For instance, I currently work with cities in Vietnam, Ukraine, the Caribbean, and Canada. Each of their national policy frameworks and international trade agreements present both challenges and opportunities for their municipal economic growth.  Collaboration among the levels of government responsible for economic development policy and planning is a real challenge in cities around the globe that needs to be addressed. It’s always rewarding to work on projects that bring multiple stakeholders together to achieve economic success for a municipality.

Can you tell us about some recent economic development successes in your community or successful projects you’ve been involved in? I’m currently working with a handful of cities in the Caribbean that are looking to support micro and small enterprises (MSME) in their community.  Since spring 2013 we have successfully supported nearly 100 start-up MSMEs in two business parks.  This has a tremendous impact on the local community who are working to build economic independence in their regions.  More than this, we have created branding, key messaging, and a communication’s strategy to promote and position the business parks as sites for future investment.

Tell me about someone who has influenced your work in economic development? My Master’s thesis, “Re-Imaging the City”, was inspired by Richard Florida.  Through my research I discovered economic and political theorist Max Weber, Daniel Bell, Ralf Dahrndorf, David Harvey, and more contemporary city thinkers like Anthony Giddens, Charles Landry, Jane Jacobs, Ricky Burdett, Richard Sennett, and even design guru Idris Mootee.  My influences come from various sources.  I think it’s important to read as much content outside of the field as in it.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about getting into the field? To be exceptional at local economic development you need to understand the global investment climate.  Get international experience.  Travel, or work abroad.  The local, national, and international policy frameworks that influence economic growth are continually changing the investment climate, and you’ve got to be aware of those changes.  Entering economic development, be prepared for a commitment to lifelong learning.

What sorts of trends do you see in the field right now? What do you think will change about economic development over the next five to ten years? There has been a renewed focus on cities as the sites for economic development.  Richard Florida’s creative cities theory revitalized this idea in 2002.  Since then municipalities around the globe have increased their foreign direct investment activities and are aggressively pursuing opportunities abroad.  I think this trend will continue.

What do you do when you aren’t working? As a fitness instructor for over 10 years, when I’m not working I enjoy investing in my health and wellness with running, biking, strength training and yoga.  Political history and cultural heritage are of great interest to me so I spend a lot of time in libraries and museums discovering the past to better understand the present and contemplate the future.

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