There’s a new EDGE in town and it will position our region as a high-performance economic engine.

EDGE is an acronym for Economic Development and Growth Experts. This body of regional leaders represents the best and the brightest of the region’s economic development professionals. It is made up of EDC investors, stakeholders and economic development professionals from the public sector.

Regional collaboration is not a new concept. In recent years, several groups have been actively working toward strengthening various aspects of our region. EDGE will build on the foundation and strengths of these previous efforts, with an emphasis on economic growth in 10 industry targets.

How does this work?
The EDC has targeted 10 areas or disciplines for focused, aggressive business development and attraction, areas such as technology commercialization, logistics, healthcare services, etc. These are the Strategic Growth Targets—areas where the region already enjoys core competencies—and are prime industries for expansion and growth. Each target has a volunteer-driven Strategy Group of five to seven technical experts who meet on a regular basis to discuss industry trends, analyze information and communicate activities.

The EDGE functions as a guide to the strategy groups, then analyzes the opportunities uncovered and advises the board of policy or action needed. This group of economic development professionals works closely together to consider the region’s strengths, does due diligence to define the action needed and makes recommendations to the EDC Board.

The EDGE also provides the crucial interactive communication that must happen to keep the strategy groups revved up and ontrack along with keeping the board of directors fueled with new initiatives.

As a hypothetical example, the Energy strategy group might identify trends in bio-diesel plant startups in Iowa, knowing that Illinois, specifically our region, possesses similar competencies and resources for this industry and new plant start-ups.

The EDGE would then direct research into Iowa’s incentives, programs and state laws that would benefit bio-diesel plants in Iowa over Illinois. This research might indicate that Illinois’ emissions controls are leading to a distinct disadvantage for Illinois biodiesel start-ups. The EDGE would then make recommendations based on the research and propose new legislation that evens the playing field for Illinois in attracting new bio-diesel plant development. The above example is just one way that this interactive group could make a difference in the future of our region.

The collaborative power of the EDGE, coupled with the focus on our region’s best assets, will maximize our potential for future economic development. This is how healthy communities get this important work done: through inclusive collaborations, creating buy-in, analysis of best practices and implementation. There is no other group as uniquely positioned as the EDC to accomplish the continued high performance of the region’s future growth. IBI