MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Columns

March 20, 2010

Regionalism: A competitive imperative in a global economy

In today’s highly competitive area of quality economic development, no community can afford to try to stand alone. Corporations seeking the right location for new and expanded operations do not view things from that perspective. The more desirable the company, the more likely it is to consider the assets and liabilities of a multi-county, even multi-state region in making its site decision.

Accordingly, Northeastern State University’s hosting and co-sponsorship of the regional summit, “Giving Voice to Northeastern Oklahoma,” last November could not have been better timed or more appropriate.

Today’s global economy rewards larger aggregations of human, financial and other resources. Regional groupings often transcend traditional borders and create new communities of interest, both formal and informal, that combine shared assets, values and aspirations. Importantly, they help rural economies elevate their scales of operation, and make them able to effectively compete with more urbanized areas. The workforce of Sequoyah County by itself would seem almost infinitesimal to many companies. Combine it with workers in the six other counties that participated in the Tahlequah conference, however, and you start to be noticed.

Regionalism is based on understanding that political jurisdictions often do not match real world economic conditions. In an era of ever accelerating rates of change, virtually all organizations face highly challenging circumstances, with significant competition in even the public and nonprofit sectors. In such conditions, static communities and companies fare poorly.

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hand separately.”

Benjamin Franklin’s famous words at the signing of the Declaration of Independence are relevant today in the context of communities declaring their interdependence on one another for their future individual and collective economic vitality. Each benefits from its neighbors’ strengths; each is penalized by their weaknesses. And while they will on occasion compete against each other for jobs, in the overall analysis they will for better or worse be evaluated as partners by those companies they are trying to attract.

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