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Out and About

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By Meagan McDougall, on June 4, 2015

In this post I’m attempting to encapsulate the last two weeks here at the EDC so it won’t be super in depth (that would be way too long) but I do hope you enjoy it all!

Last week was overall more relaxed at the office. There haven’t been any recent RFI’s (requests for information) coming in to the office from prospective developers or business people so there was a slight lull in that aspect of the office work. Oddly enough I’m really eager for someone to put one in so I can experience that aspect of the EDC’s work and contributions to the community.

Early last week my boss suggested I attend the Circles Chatham’s Poverty Awareness Day and when I tell you I’ve never been to a better simulation, I mean it wholeheartedly. The volunteers and planners put so much thought and care into the entire event, from the first session-where they spoke about poverty in general-to the highlight of the day: the poverty simulation. To say I have yet to experience a more stressful situation would be an understatement and I applaud Circles for opening my eyes to the daily struggles and stressors people living in poverty face. In the activity I was a single mom of two children one of whom had about 5 behavioral disorders and the other was still a baby; on top of that I had a criminal record so I had to check in with the parole officer twice a month and somehow still manage to get my child to school/daycare and keep him medicated while having a full time job that didn’t pay too well, feed everyone, and pay the utilities (which I didn’t do, oops). I know that the simulation will never come close to living the real cyclical struggle of poverty every day but it is a start for people like myself hoping to be allies and support others as much as possible.

This week I’ve had the chance to be out of the office a lot more and attend some of the meetings the employees at the EDC attend and I have loved every moment of it, even the 40 minute drive each way to the RTRP‘s Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) meeting with my boss on Wednesday. Being able to learn about the different developments in the region and who is at play is all so interesting to me and having the opportunity to talk to people in the field, especially those who have been working for decades, is invaluable and has been adding so much to my educational experience this summer. I never thought I would end up talking about tax incentive policies or the power of politics as much as I have during my internship but it truly is indicative to how important these things are, whether we want to acknowledge them or not.

I’m finally beginning to get a better understanding of just how vast the field of economic development is especially after hearing where some of the EDAC members were working. So many different interest groups come together for the same common purpose of growing businesses and providing more people with jobs in their area. The more people I meet in different sectors from economic developers to people working for energy and railway companies to hopeful business people, the more I realize that a lot of times people just happen to end up in economic development because it simply makes sense. The fun and interesting part of it all is bringing them all together around the same table to get the job done while trying your best to not step on anyone’s toes with new projects (an issue I’m actually running into with one of my projects and am excited to see how it’ll unfold).

So far I’ve been keeping notes of almost every meeting I sit in on from what is actually talked about to the dynamics at play in the room. I didn’t think I would end up putting what I’ve learned from our Org Theory or Communications class to practice just observing things, from where people sit to who talks the most/what is talked about, but these things really do matter and when you start to peel back the layers, you get to see just what the drivers of a group really are.

Fun, unrelated fact: in one of the Pre-App meetings I went to on Wednesday I learned that some specialized dog trainers can earn in the range of 50-80k a year!!! Just let that marinate…

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