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This report summarizes the main findings from a survey of 61 local leaders from the Ohio Lake Erie Watershed, half of whom come from municipal governments. Other respondents are at higher levels of government or in the private and nonprofit sectors. These leaders hold various positions of leadership in their organizations, such as the mayor or city manager, agency director, or commissioner. In an open question, we asked the respondents to list their three biggest threats to economic growth in their local communities. Economic concerns such as unemployment and business closures were mentioned by 60 percent of respondents, but almost half indicated that lack of leadership and governmental barriers are threats to economic stability and growth. Another third noted concerns regarding the natural or physical environment. All but two respondents were either “very” or “somewhat” worried about the threats posed by their top concern. Local leaders were also asked numerous questions about their policy responses to the threats listed. A wide variety of approaches are utilized, and the top approach, business programs and incentives, were the first listed approach of only 20 percent of respondents. Notably, around 11 percent also claimed that nothing is being done to address the threats. More specifically, respondents were asked to categorize their approaches to business attraction. Almost one-third pursue a passive “reactive-focused” approach that involves catering to whatever businesses show interest in the community. Only 11 percent report that their primary attraction approach is to attempt to diversify their economies by attracting businesses in industries that are in different industries than those that currently drive their local economies.
Finally, respondents were asked about their approaches to business retention. By far, the most common approach (one-third of responses) involved fostering an open dialogue with local business owners. Again, around 11 percent reported doing nothing to address the threats.