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Economic Development to Gauge Progress: From Personal Finance to Macroeconomics

Determining a quantifiable way to measure the status of the economic well being and quality of life for members of a community is a difficult task. Our Highlands Economic Partnership Team have gauged the needs in this arena based on what we’ve heard from local elected officials, employers, and data from state and federal sources, and have made it an integral part of the work we do.

Addressing the economic well-being and improving it, however, is like shooting a moving target. Inflation, interest rates, and workforce numbers are constantly changing and the needs of the population, while moving somewhat in lockstep with that of the rest of the country are highly specific. What’s more, the needs of our Highlands residents are all highly specific and vary wildly. Someone getting off Government assistance for the first time in their adult life, someone entering the workforce in a skilled trade, and a middle-career professional all have room to grow but in vastly different ways, but the thing they have in common is the desire to grow and progress. In this way they, are all fantastic representatives of our community and the mission of our organization.

HEP’s four core initiatives are to raise the median household income, fill open jobs, bolster a workforce pipeline, and recruit businesses that meet unique community needs. This mission, while simple in nature requires more collaboration and teamwork than might meet the eye, but we believe the beauty of it lies in the keen eye toward progress for all demographics that live, work, and play in the Highlands region. From the person breaking the cycle of poverty to the industry leader employing them, and all types in between, the core initiatives are in place to help both. Over the last two weeks, the Highlands hosted two events directly related to something as local as personal finance and something as global as macroeconomics. I would like to explore the concept of how these concepts work together, and, perhaps more importantly, what is the Highlands’ role in facilitating them?

Enter Financial Literacy. This concept is as old as civilization itself, made more paramount to economic success by the rapid advancement of western society in the time of the industrial revolution and prosperity

of American economics on the global stage. But what is it? Financial literacy can be as simple as balancing a checkbook and as complicated as understanding and reacting to market trends. HEP is hosting a four-part series in Financial Literacy in the form of casual “workshops,” the first installation “Foundational Banking Principles” took place October 20th, preceding future installations “Retirement 101”, “Asset Protection” and “Legacy Planning.” These workshops aim to serve the purpose of educating our partners’ employees about a sound financial outlook across income brackets and aim to assist in bettering the overall financial well-being of the region at large.

In a totally separate thought space and separate room at the Town Centre, a little over a week later, HEP partnered with the Tech College of Business to host Virginia Tech Prof. Emeritus, Agricultural Speaker and Economist David Kohl on the state of the national and global agricultural economy and how it pertains to current trends in macroeconomics. This event broadly covered the role of Agriculture Business in the future of the global economy, market trends, inflation and much more. He discussed how these concepts are working together to create the financial climate we are currently in and how our decisions as consumers can influence these trends. This event was broad reaching and touched on big ideas founded on big data. A far stretch from the technically oriented, hard and fast rules of foundational banking principles.

Having attended both events, I couldn’t help but notice touch on concepts that are important to the progress and well being of our region but in opposite ways. Economics at its broadest and most global level is assessed due to its effects on “everyday” people. It is a summary on how things on such a large stage relate back to the consumer. In context of our work at the Highlands Economic Partnership, it affects us from the outside (on the global stage) into our region. On the flip side, the personal finance aspect of financial literacy serves as the core of the smallest scale of economics. It comes from within our households, and within our community, serving as the thing we can control to combat the things we can’t (interest rates, inflation, etc.). Using the economic development of a region starts with the household and can be measured against the national and global state of the economy. Highlands Economic Partnership is excited to stay committed to the advancement of the region through our four core initiatives while keeping its ear to the ground when it comes to national and global trends. We are also excited to continue to collaborate with our great local and regional partners toward our shared goal of growth and progress.

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