A short time ago I watched a documentary on television about how anthropologists had found ancient human remains in some European mountains and that they could tell what these ancient humans had done for a living just by the analyzing their bones. Some were hunters, some were farmers, and others were merchants or aristocrats. They could tell this mostly by looking at their hands. Hands of farmers and hunters differed but both showed the signs of years of hard labor. The merchants had some telltale signs as well, while the aristocrat’s skeletons didn’t show the signs of heavy labor.
In the world of economic development, I firmly believe the hands of a good economic development person will look more like those of a farmer. A good economic developer does not shy away from hard work and knows that they will have to get their hands dirty on a regular basis. We do have to deal with manure from time to time. A good developer will readily plunge their hands into the dirt because we are working to grow a crop. In our case, it may mean developing an environment that is suitable for a business or planting a seed by working with an entrepreneur or small business. Retaining a larger, more mature business is relative to cultivating a crop.
There are economic developers that have never had dirt or grease under their fingernails. I have seen this first-hand. Those that would rather talk about how things should be or tell someone to do the job are not uncommon. However, just like the story of the Little Red Hen, when no one would help till the soil, plant the seeds, or harvest the grain, but they would help eat the bread, so goes the world of economic development. Fortunately, there are some that will work the soil and not shy from hard work. You will see results from those economic developers .
Those developers who shy away from work will suffer the same fate of the fictional animals that shunned work in the story cited above, they will all go hungry. Unfortunately though, the community, county or region that has hired the developer, may also go hungry and miss opportunities.
So to me, metaphorically speaking, a quality economic developer will have the hands of a farmer. With their hard work, a community will thrive through the difficult times as well as the good.