|Helping business to succeed to stabilize, grow local economy|
|Opinion - Bryant, Idal-Lew EDC|
You know that moment when you're supposed to stand up in a meeting and introduce yourself? Well, I can honestly tell you that it takes some practice saying this mouthful: "My name is Melisa Bryant and I am the economic development specialist for the Ida-Lew Economic Development Council."
Afterward, I often get questioned as to the name of our nonprofit organization: "Ida-Who? Ida-What?"
"Ida-Lew," I say with a smile, knowing the next question is, "What is Ida-Lew and what do you do?"
The mission of Ida-Lew EDC is to promote economic development and stability in Idaho and Lewis counties. The council is a partnership of the two counties, including 12 cities and 20 unincorporated communities, businesses and other organizations within those counties.
Our goal at Ida-Lew is to help create jobs that allow people to live comfortably, to assist new businesses and to diversify our economy while preserving the rural character of this wonderful area we call home.
Ida-Lew EDC is governed by a board of directors and employs one person (That's me!) as an economic development specialist.
When people ask what I do, my first response is "Do you want the long or the short version?" I'll start here with the long version because it's hard to explain in a nutshell what I do. Promoting economic development can look very different depending on the need and situation. (Spoiler alert! This all leads to an abbreviated answer.)
I began working with Ida-Lew EDC in November 2011. My everyday work is all about connecting businesses and communities to resources. In any given day, I am likely researching available resources for a project, educating people about what resources are out there, promoting a local cause to bolster our economy, working to develop and implement important projects and much more.
To give you an idea of how different this work can be, here are a few projects I've recently been involved with:
The Warbird Weekend Air Fair showcased the Idaho County Airport and brought together local businesses, county government, the USFS and chambers of commerce to promote our airport as a means to economic and community growth.
As leader of Idaho Lewis County Partners, I recently helped organize the Idaho Lewis County Career Expo where more than 550 students from seven high schools met 32 local employers. In their surveys, 79 percent of the students said they found out about local jobs they didn't know about before the expo. I am passionate about partnering with our schools, industry, community and post-secondary education to develop the skills of local workforce and retain more of our youth in our communities.
Ida-Lew EDC is also working with the Idaho Lewis County Partners to create a regional technical education center. The center will focus on training in the manufacturing and medical industries and provide a local opportunity for career and/or college readiness. The training will give students core employment and education skills, work readiness training and hands-on industry experience. The technical education center will include high school students gaining dual college credits, adults participating in workforce training and minimum security offenders in work readiness skills training.
I also provide hands-on assistance to businesses. I help grow existing local businesses and promote our area to start-up companies or companies looking to relocate to the area. I assist with business sales and purchases as well as helping entrepreneurs get new businesses started.
In our small communities, meeting in person is often what makes people the most comfortable, so I usually meet people in their town or place of business. When I sit down with an entrepreneur we work together on business plans, financial documents, marketing strategies, lending resources, locating inventory and machines, registering with state and federal agencies, getting started with employees -- whatever part of starting a business they need help with. With existing businesses, we often work together on some of those same things, but we also tackle challenges and growth opportunities, like how to make it through the slow season, how to prepare for an expansion loan or how to effectively export in a foreign country. In a way it's like having an extra person to help connect your business to the right information and resources.
My educational background is in accounting. I've been a business manager, accounting manager, store manager, office manager and shift manager. I am also a small business owner. So if you meet with me, our conversation will be one that is not only confidential but also one that is relatable.
I was born and raised here. That's not a political statement; it simply means that I understand the local culture and I am passionate about the economic well-being of my birth place.
So, that's the long answer. As promised, here's the short one:
I do a lot of different things, but mostly I listen to people and help them succeed with community and business projects that will stabilize and grow our economy. The paths are all different, but they lead to the same place: ensuring the prosperity of Idaho and Lewis counties for years to come.
Melisa Bryant is the economic development specialist for the Ida-Lew Economic Development Council.
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