Development Director goes back to school

Published 10:25 am Tuesday, December 12, 2023

West Point’s Economic Development Director Meghan Richardson went back to school after being in her field for over a decade. She recently completed the Advanced Economic Development Leadership (AEDL) executive education program, which chooses mid and senior-level economic developers from around the country.

“It was nice to meet with other economic developers from around the state who are like-minded and deal with the same challenges on a day-to-day basis,” Richardson said.

Richardson, who has been the director of the development authority for eight years, joined 35 of her industry peers for the one-week intensive course. The course took place in November at the Kauffman Center in Kansas City, Missouri.

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The program included various lectures and meetings with experts. Topics covered included retail and commercial development, navigating the new normal in the world of COVID-19, strategic planning and application. Richardson enjoyed networking and hearing from her peers. 

“I’m a department of one person…It was a great networking opportunity for me to meet other professionals. That I can call on if I ever need to,” Richardson said. 

The class got to meet with site selection consultants who select potential sites for businesses. An economist from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette gave a talk on the outlook of the economy in the coming years. There was even someone from HGTV, who discussed the growth of the town of Wetumpka after being on the channel’s Home Town Makeover.

Richardson looks forward to using the skills she learned from the program for West Point. The new year will bring new board members to the town’s development authority and the Downtown Development Authority. During the program, the director took communication assessments and hopes to use new strategies to work with the newer members. 

In Richardson’s experience, there are many basic training courses in her field but few higher-level leadership courses for economic developers. The AEDL program was for candidates for five or more years on the job. 

Richardson graduated with an Economic Development Master Practitioner (EcDMP) certificate. The program is a collaboration between four universities: Valdosta State University, The University of Southern Mississippi, Texas Christian University, and the University of New Mexico.