Buzzwords. There are some standard buzzwords that permeate the vocabulary of nearly every discipline. Whether you are an educator, technology professional, healthcare administrator or the leader of the Mickey Mouse Club, your profession carries a number of particular words or phrases that may (or may not) uniquely describe something or an action in your profession. Some of the typical words that I often hear within the confines of my work include leverage, globalization, brick-and-mortar, mission critical, exit strategy, best practices, organic growth and synergy.
I keep a mental list of all the buzzwords that drive me to the brink of insanity during meetings, as I'm sure many of you keep your own list. Buzzwords have become such a source of irritation that they've now proven to offer amusement for the office meeting (that seems to happen with all things that irritate us; we turn them into humor). Ever play Buzzword Bingo? Or tally the number of times the meeting facilitator mentions "synergy" (or any other word that grates on your nerves like nails on a chalkboard)?
I'm going to mark, in print, at this very moment, the current buzzword that is plaguing my daily work: economic development. There, I said it. And it's not that, as the director of the Chamber of Commerce, I'm not concerned with economic development, I most certainly am. My problem with this buzzword is that many people expect that the solution is simple.
To define economic development, we have to examine a number of areas. We need to evaluate, create, re-create and negate policies that make an impact on the economy. This is no easy task. Particularly, we need to examine policies that relate to competiveness of business, sustainability on a micro and macro level, health, safety, social programs and education. Even then, I'm sure I'm leaving some player out of the game.
Changing the course of economic development for an area is long-term change. Period. Generations of policy, beliefs, social norms and international forces have had an impact on our current path. They will continue to be the wind, or lack of wind, in our sails. The roles that these factors play in charting our future path are enormous.
We didn't arrive at our current situation (or predicament, if you feel that the current situation is a negative one; predicament denotes a greater tone of doom) overnight. Sure, maybe you're just waking up to realize that we've been thrown off course, or maybe you think that we are charting a new path just fine, or happy with what we have and where we are headed. Regardless, nothing will change immediately. We cannot turn this massive ship on a dime. We need to methodically make decisions on which way to go.
Most importantly, we cannot sail this ship on a solo mission. Every single sector needs to evaluate how the ship should sail, where the journey will lead them and how all of this can improve the economy for the greater good. Will we lose some passengers along the way? For certain. However, if the passengers don't see the need for change, it is going to burn an awful lot of time and energy trying to steer them otherwise.
You're the passenger on the ship for economic development in Williamstown and the surrounding areas. You have a role in determining which course to chart. I implore you to ask questions. Start small. Review workplace policies. Become familiar with your town meetings, officials, business growth in the area. Arm yourself with knowledge, or be willing to go wherever the ship takes you. I don't know about you, but I'm a bit too much of a control freak to allow that to happen.
So when I say that my latest buzzword nemesis is economic development, it's because it is much larger than a simple fix. And without a mass of people to recognize that something needs to be done to change it, we might as well all be sailing the Atlantic in a row boat, with one oar.
As always, feel free to share your buzzwords, thoughts, complaints or compliments with me at Jennifer@williamstownchamber.com
Jennifer Civello is the Executive Director of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce.