How to Use the Toolkit

The Goal

This toolkit is designed to help those developing or implementing a Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to incorporate international engagement as a key element of their plan.  As such, the Comprehensive International Engagement Strategy (CIES) should be a sub-element of the CEDS — the part that focuses on ensuring that the region is considering its larger place in the world and that it is focusing some portion of its economic development efforts on fostering exports and attracting or expanding foreign investments.

The CIES can potentially have two different components — one focused on export promotion and the other focused on foreign direct investment (FDI). Not every region will focus on both exports and FDI as some may decide to focus their efforts on one or the other, but they should make this decision consciously and deliberately.

Use of this resource should provide a context for every region’s international engagement efforts. This includes insights about how an individual economic development organization’s (EDO’s) efforts may fit into that context and ideas about how to expand existing efforts to engage those international companies in a more meaningful way that builds on current regional EDO strengths.

To see other regions’ CEDS, check out the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Resource Library developed by the StatsAmerica team from the Indiana Business Research Center. This resource includes many CEDS in a database with sufficient metadata to allow searching based on up to 50 different variables.

Target Audience

The primary target audience for the toolkit is the economic development authorities serving smaller cities and more rural regions, sometimes known as micropolitan areas. That target audience drove our research, informed our interview questions, and focused our search for examples. That is not to say that states or other jurisdictions won’t find value in what is compiled here. But there is much research and other documentation already about international engagement among larger metro areas, and this toolkit seeks to make relevant information more accessible to other regions beyond the metropolitan area high performers.

Our Approach

Every region is different, with its own unique combination of assets, liabilities, political leadership, existing ecosystem and infrastructure, and other characteristics. This toolkit is designed to help each region develop its own approach to attracting FDI and promoting exports that reflects a unique set of circumstances, optimizing strengths, addressing weaknesses, and generating the best possible outcomes for the region seeking to expand international engagement. There is no cookie-cutter approach that will generate success across the board. Instead, this toolkit provides common practices, possible activities, examples, and resources for regions interested in making progress to advance their international engagement efforts.

Key Steps

The research suggests that those regions that design an export promotion plan should recognize three major elements to the plan — the outreach, the support services, and the grants and incentives designed to encourage and facilitate exporting. The export promotion section is organized around these three major elements. Not every economic development agency will take on every aspect of this plan. Instead, they may focus on some aspect, such as emphasizing education and greater awareness of the importance of exporting or providing market intelligence for companies exploring new global markets.

For those regions that opt to encourage greater foreign direct investment proactively, the research suggests that a plan should include four major elements — outreach, prospect support, incentives, and aftercare. The FDI attraction section is organized around these four major elements. Again, not every organization will be involved in all aspects of FDI attraction and expansion. For instance, marketing-oriented economic development organizations may focus largely on lead generation activities while EDOs with many local foreign-owned enterprises may emphasize efforts to encourage existing business expansion.

Toolkit Structure

Strategy & Planning— This section of the toolkit provides a step-by-step approach to developing a plan for more proactive international engagement, including attraction of FDI and export promotion. It includes suggestions for justifying an increased focus on international engagement, advice for preparing to develop a plan, and steps for delivering plans for FDI attraction and export promotion.

Attracting FDI and Export Promotion— In these sections, the toolkit provides a list of Common Practices that are illustrated with Potential Activities and Examples plus additional Resources that can provide EDOs with advice and a variety of perspectives on each particular plan element.

Potential Activities— This section reflects those actions that a region might undertake (or might already be doing), depending on the results of their self assessment and SWOT analysis, budget, political support, strength of existing ecosystem, and other similar factors. Not every region (or EDO) should undertake all of the activities listed.  Rather, these activities reflect what we observed as the most widely implemented across multiple regions, and they often contributed to success in either expanding FDI or promoting exports.

Self-Assessment — These are key questions and considerations that can help inform EDOs before embarking down this path to pursue proactive and strategic international engagement. If you are wondering if your organization or region is ready to pursue proactive international engagement and where to begin, the self-assessment questions can inform your thinking.

Measuring Success — This section provides examples of key metrics that EDOs might use to monitor their performance, guiding practitioners in the selection of appropriate metrics that reflect both the activities being undertaken and the ultimate goals of the international engagement effort.

For More Information — This section includes generate references that practitioners can explore if they would like to become more informed about the issue or want to learn more about what ideas influenced the design of this toolkit.

Additional Notes

Economic developers involved in export promotion and FDI attraction operate in a very complex global marketplace of interconnected organizations and activities. One economic development leader suggested that looking through the site illustrated the breadth and depth of the challenges faced in trying to do this work effectively. We employ many different approaches to make this site a useful and accessible resource:

  • The site includes a search function that can help users quickly find information anywhere on the entire site.
  • Using the link to the site map at the bottom of each page gives a comprehensive and detailed picture of what information is included where on the site.
  • The drop down menus and breadcrumbs on the side are designed to aid in navigation through all the material compiled. We have minimized the number of links and layers down deeper into the site wherever possible to make it easier to find what you need.

We have tried to reduce duplication of material, but found repeatedly that much of the information is relevant to multiple sections of the site, so we created links from one section to another where appropriate. Having said that, the toolkit was not built for users to read through from start to end. Rather, we hope that you will turn to it as a resource as needed when seeking information on any of the varied topics relevant to expanding your international engagement.

In some cases, the research team found information sources that were older, sometimes published or reported a decade or more ago. When these are included, it is because the information is still relevant or helpful, it corroborates other research and practice findings, and/or the source publishing the document is of such prominence that it is potentially valuable for users to hear that organization’s perspective on the topic.

Page numbers in pdf documents referenced throughout the toolkit refer to the pdf page numbers, not the page number in the text of the document itself.

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