Dale Brill is obsessed with two things — numbers and baseball. The two go together well. After all, America’s favorite pastime is heaven for a guy enthralled with hitters’ on-base percentages, pitchers’ earned run averages, and countless other metrics central to major league decisions. A passion for figuring things out is what brought Brill to the Orlando Economic Partnership (the Partnership), where he is studying the mechanics of the region’s economic capacity for quality growth and broad-based prosperity as the new senior vice president of research and the Foundation for Building Community. Brill’s past experience as the chief marketing officer at VISIT FLORIDA and work as the state’s director of the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development made him a coveted free agent. He shared his perspective on the opportunity to play in the big league environment in the Orlando region.
Preparing for the Orlando Opportunity
I’ve been preparing over the last 10 years to put into practice innovative “thinking and doing” that will impact a community in a meaningful way. With a deep understanding of both the tourism industry and economic development at the state level, the challenge to work at a regional level proved irresistible.
When Tim Giuliani, the Partnership’s president and CEO, gave me a call to see if I’d throw my hat in the ring for the position, he presented an opportunity to do something I’ve never done in my career: To help adapt best practices from global, state and regional initiatives to a regional and local context.
Working on the Ground Level
You’ve heard the phrase, “All politics are local.” In the same way, all economic development is local. Too often the conversation is about the state’s priorities and what the state is doing. I believe this can be a detrimental distraction. Without empowered communities, counties and regions engaged, economic development conversations are largely academic. The Orlando area clearly isn’t waiting for permission to shape its own future. As a convener and facilitator, the Partnership can leverage the palpable social capital that has served the region so well in addressing challenges and pursuing opportunities
in the past.
Personally, I’m most excited about contributing to the next chapter of the region’s success and supporting our stakeholders, in part, with both context and insight from our expanded analytical capabilities.
Challenges Analysis Can Create
I’ll acknowledge two challenges created by strengthening the commitment to evidence-based decision making. The first is recognizing that data analysis isn’t a mysterious black box that spits out the answer. Nothing can replace the experience, wisdom and foresight to be realized by engaging the community. To be clear, our role is to convene stakeholders and inform the deliberations.
The second challenge is the tension that sometimes results when analysis counters preconceived notions. Again, I would point to the social capital — mutual respect and trust — shared in the region as the secret to leveraging this tension as a positive catalyst for building consensus around whatever change in direction or adjustments in priorities that might be suggested with the introduction of new information.
Creating Pathways To Prosperity
Let’s look at job creation as an example of how analysis can support the region’s prioritization of broad-based prosperity. One long-standing goal in traditional economic development is job creation. The Partnership remains steadfast is asking “what kind of jobs?” to emphasize the quality of the jobs created.
In addition to our long-standing emphasis on higher-wage jobs, we’re exploring action plans that expand access to those higher-wage jobs to the full spectrum of the community. We’re applying analytics to refine our recruitment targeting and to strengthen collaboration with our regional partners to identify sectors that represent “career pathways” — created by employers whose job mix presents opportunity for all to pursue prosperity for their families.
The Construction Industry’s Role In Orlando
The construction industry is vital, particularly when you look at the career ladders the field creates. From a talent supply standpoint, someone can start at an entry level (and the wages associated with it) and have the ability to climb, from say a materials handler, to any of the management levels that might be available. It is all within his or her grasp. Those are the ideal jobs to create and attract because they form this ladder. In discussions around the concept of broad-based prosperity, which is a focus of the Partnership’s leaders, that ladder is an important dynamic I see being generated in the construction industry.
The other issue is that the shortage of skilled labor may suggest the pendulum has swung too far towards a belief that a high-wage job can only come if you have a Ph.D. or a master’s-level education. However, the evidence clearly suggests that you can reach a high wage, take care of your family and not have to live paycheck to paycheck with a bachelor’s degree or less if you’re fortunate enough to be aligned with an occupation or industry that creates that kind of career ladder. Again, the construction industry provides this.
“Personally, I’m most excited about contributing to the next chapter of the region’s success and supporting our stakeholders, in part, with both context and insight from our expanded analytical capabilities.” – Dale Brill