Local government officials must often operate in reactive mode, responding to crises or other pressing events of they day. But, good leaders know that they must be reactive and proactive, acting to advance the future prospects of their community over the long run. An interesting new survey from Government Business Council offers useful insights about what matters on this front. The survey asked state and local government officials to identify the issues and focus areas that they deemed most important to their own and their community’s long term success. Their top concerns relate to the economy and fiscal health, as the largest share of respondents identified taxation, budget and finance as their top priority. Promoting economic development ranked number 2, followed by infrastructure and transportation. I was somewhat surprised to see issues such as health care and social services rank low on the priority list, but this may be due to the fact that few local officials have a direct role in the provision of these services.
As an economic development consultant, I’m of course pleased to see economic development marked as a high priority. It was the number one concern for officials operating in smaller communities and smaller states, reflecting the local importance of creating new job engines and perhaps reflecting the place-based economic divides facing America today. This priority focus on economic development was strongest among elected officials (compared to professional staff), but was strong across categories and across all types of officials, regardless of their department or function.