High quality economic development evaluations require trust, collaboration, and good data – probably in that order. 

In March I wrote about Montgomery County, MD’s excellent “Review of Montgomery County’s Economic Development Incentive Programs.”  I recently had the chance to interview the very bright authors of the report, Craig Howard and Natalia Carrizosa of the Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO).  They described some of the factors that made their report possible:

  • OLO has a reputation for working well with County departments; it is not a “gotcha” enterprise
  • OLO studies are useful to County departments as well as County Council because they provide information staff want and can use – so they have reason to collaborate
  • The County Council and economic development department each has staff that understand how the other operates.  They speak the same language.
  • The economic development department has been collecting data on companies that receive incentives for many years – as directed by the Council.  While the data had not been systematically assessed, it provided a solid basis for analysis.

An outside evaluation can provide tremendous value, but not without these three elements – Trust, Collaboration and Data.