Why Economic Developers Should Just Ignore Sunken Costs


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As I move among economic development circles and talk with local commercial real estate colleagues, I’m sensing a new emotion among those who are working to make Charlotte grow: Envy. Even indignation.

Since Charlotte lost out on the Amazon headquarters and then the AllianceBernstein relocation, moods have gotten surly.

There’s resentment against advantages seen in other similar-sized cities such as Nashville (future home for AllianceBernstein) and cries of unfairness in the economic development game. Other states have no income tax, or they offer incredible incentives!

Frankly, it’s a zero-sum attitude. And it’s not going to help anyone, particularly those in the Queen City.

We need to be grateful for the many wins we’ve had. Now is the time for this city and region to move on from the sunk costs we’ve made in the past and become creative.

We need to accept that a lot of investment has been made in areas that may not be working as well for us anymore—investments in branding, marketing and building multiple economic development-focused organizations, for example.

Instead, efforts should be focused on new strategies, such as looking for more ways to cooperate with the NC legislature, reaching out to our economic development colleagues in other parts of the Charlotte region, and continuing to work together with our partners in South Carolina. The result will be new and bold leadership that will move us past our sunk investments.

We need a fresh start. Let’s leave behind the old investments. No more navel-gazing and new branding efforts. Look at where we’ve had our biggest wins and see what made those work. Get the boots on the ground and nurture our critical relationships, reminding people why Charlotte is a great place to live and work.

And let us not forget, we should demand that our community leaders make job creation a priority.


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