Dwight DuRant
Zev Cohen & Associates

Dwight DuRant

The pace of business increases exponentially year over year. But in the economic development arena, things seem to happen in the blink of an eye. That means that economic development professionals must leverage every marketing discipline and every outreach initiative to remain competitive.

The executive staff of Team Volusia Economic Development Corporation is keenly aware of this and already is taking steps to ensure it remains a contender for new and expanding companies well into the future. To do anything less would amount to hollow victories.

Amy Liu of the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution, echoed that sentiment in an address to the International Economic Development Council. She said, “Success in economic development in the future calls for putting a regional economy on a trajectory of higher growth that increases the productivity of firms and workers and raises standards of living for all, thus achieving deep prosperity – growth that is robust, shared, and enduring.”

Team Volusia EDC is doing its part to fuel the local economy by implementing three strategies that will help the organization achieve success in the future.

First, Team Volusia EDC practices aggressive outreach, putting the organization’s president & CEO Keith Norden and his team in dozens of key forums across the nation and around the world every year. Technology makes it easy and affordable to extract valuable information from various forums, trade shows and sales missions without having to travel to them. However, getting that information in person and interacting with key players one-on-one is priceless and often results in Volusia County being considered for projects. High-touch has a bigger and bigger impact in today’s high tech world.

Second, Team Volusia EDC is sharpening its marketing focus on the aviation and aerospace industry. The organization plays a key supporting role in pursuing this marketing segment, working closely with the Volusia County Economic Development Division, which takes the lead on pursuing aviation and aerospace leads. Our geography alone is a strategic advantage to aviation and aerospace companies. Being so close to the Space Coast, and at the threshold of Florida’s High Tech Corridor, make Volusia County a prime location for aviation and aerospace enterprises. Add Daytona Beach International Airport to the mix and the case for Volusia County becomes compelling.

The third mandate for future success includes collaboration with universities that have long resumes of interaction and partnership with aviation and aerospace companies. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Florida International University in Melbourne, and the University of Central Florida in Orlando all have strong aviation and aerospace partnerships, which means they are in frequent contact with many companies and organizations that may want to establish a Central Florida presence for research, development, flight ops or manufacturing. In that instance, we have a great story to share with them.

Team Volusia EDC also collaborates frequently with other area colleges and universities such as Daytona State College, Bethune-Cookman University, Keiser University and Stetson University, Keiser University and others.

While outreach, aviation and aerospace marketing, and collaboration with colleges and universities will help Volusia County remain competitive as the future approaches at warp-speed, other disciplines must not be ignored. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OEDC), which promotes policies that improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world, calls for economic development organizations to invest in technology and digital infrastructure. This is essential. Oftentimes, Team Volusia’s digital footprint can pre-qualify – or pre-disqualify – our community, depending on what a site selector or prospective company is looking for. That is why we are attentive to our online presence. The organization continually upgrades its website and has an active presence on professionally oriented social media. Team Volusia also participates in webinars and other digital offerings and mines data relative to every prospect as well as that prospect’s industry.

In short, the road ahead is paved with today’s vision of tomorrow’s challenges. What we do in the present is an investment in the success we want to achieve in the future.

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Today, businesses are either already implementing some sort of a CSR program (no longer a trend or a competitive advantage) or trying to figure out how to develop one. According to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Special Report: In Brands We Trust, “81 percent of consumers link purchases to trust of the brand. I must be able to trust the brand to do what is right.”

Most definitions of corporate social responsibility include elements of philanthropy and volunteer efforts to affect societal change and impact. Increasingly, frustration with either too much or too little government intervention is also influencing companies and brands to develop CSR programs to vocalize their beliefs on certain policies or issues. A recent New York Times article reported that, “companies also are under pressure from customers and shareholders to demonstrate a broader sense of responsibility for the long-term health of the communities in which they operate. Some 86 percent of Fortune 500 companies issued reports last year describing the environmental and social impacts of their businesses (Editorial Board, 2019, September 17. Forcing Companies to Be Good).”

Niall Fitzgerald, former CEO of Unilever, sums it up this way: “Corporate Social Responsibility is a hard-edged business decision. Not because it is a nice thing to do or because people are forcing us to do it, [but] because it is good for our business.”

One of the best ways to understand a CSR strategy is to take a deeper dive from the inside. I’m incredibly blessed to share my experience at Coca-Cola Consolidated and our approach to CSR, or as we say, our culture and community engagement. It’s important to first understand who we are:

Our Purpose to Honor God, Serve Others, Pursue Excellence, and Grow Profitably remains the cornerstone of our Company and our Culture. We aspire to have a Purpose-driven organization, led by Servant Leaders focused on the development on the minds, bodies and spirits of our teammates and partners.

As the nation’s largest bottler, Coke Consolidated employs nearly 17,000 teammates, operates in 14 states and Washington, D.C., and refreshes over 66 million consumers. But what makes us truly unique in the Coca-Cola System is our culture and Purpose-driven business execution. At our core, we lead from the heart – whether that is making, selling, and distributing the greatest brands and beverages in the world, or supporting our local communities and teammates.

We value giving back as much as we value the pursuit of excellence and commitment to grow profitability. Our approach is to serve, to care and to change lives for the better at the local level. We have a committee structure in our facilities that identifies, evaluates, and supports the programs that directly impact their communities.

Corporately, we recently created a sustainability task-force to review business practices and innovations to continue lowering our carbon footprint, operating some of the most water-efficient plants in the US, recycling our raw materials during the manufacturing process, and recapturing as much of our packaging as possible for re-use. And most importantly, we are transparent about our approach.

Our intentions, whether large or small, must be done organically and authentically. Navigating how to talk about your CSR efforts is critical. For us, this is the foundation – it does not matter how much programming we provide or how much we donate to charities and non-profits, if our own teammates and stakeholders do not trust that we are doing the right thing because it is simply the right thing to do, then we fail. If what we are doing is viewed solely as a marketing tool, then we fail.

The Edelman Study also reports that, “consumers rank trust with product, brand, and company attributes as an essential buying consideration and expect brands to keep their promises by taking action that makes a real difference.” When our actions and values align both internally and externally, we believe our people, brands, and business grow.

Building social good, with a focus on the triple bottom line: people, the planet, and profits should be a rallying-cry in every board room. “Creating a strong business and building a better world are not conflicting goals – they are both essential ingredients for long-term success.” – Bill Ford, Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Company.

Companies and industries must anticipate change to be competitive. How do you adapt your CSR strategy to address trends on the horizon? Some questions come to mind:

• How does employee engagement in CSR programs affect retention?

• Should businesses consider allowing employees “gap time” to volunteer? Will the next generation of employees simply expect this from companies?

• How active will CSR be in the C-Suite?

• What impacts will the supply chain feel as consumers increasingly want to see products sourced using sustainable materials and practices?

• How do you include diversity, equality and inclusion in a CSR strategy?

• How will technology impact CSR?

Whether your organization is starting to create and implement a CSR strategy or already thinking about the next chapter, remember, “…to build and sustain brands people love and trust, one must focus—not only on today but also on tomorrow.” Irene B. Rosenfeld, former CEO of Kraft.

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