PEDA - Pennsylvania Economic Development Association

Preconference Session: Reinventing Strategic Planning: Building a Sustainable Business Model for Economic Development Agencies

  • 04/20/2015
  • 9:00 AM - 12:30 PM
  • Harrisburg Hilton, 1 N 2nd St, Harrisburg, PA 17101


 Reinventing Strategic Planning: Building a Sustainable Business Model for Economic Development Agencies

This session is recognized by PEDA and by the Pennsylvania Economic Development Institute.

 Click here to download brochure 

Register by Thursday, April 9th, to be included on the attendee list.

Learning Objectives:

 (1) Analyze “Today’s Planning Model” (the strategic planning approach used by many organizations today) and identify the limitations of it in the current economic environment

 (2) Outline and discuss ”Tomorrow’s Imperative” (the “price of admission” for sustainability of economic development organizations and communities) including and its implications on future strategic thinking and planning

 (3) Identify “How to Get There from Here” by developing and implementing a new approach to planning and sustainability

 (4) Understand the process to create “Staff and Board Engagement, Alignment and Commitment” to fund and implement the plan including strategies to develop the next generation of leadership at both levels

 (5) Provide “take home” tools and strategies that can be used immediately to support regional and organizational planning efforts


In today’s economic environment with funding cuts, higher performance expectations and requirements for more integration and collaboration, the traditional approaches to strategic planning and organizational development often do not result in the business recruitment and retention outcomes desired and threaten the sustainability of our economic development agencies as well. 

This session provides a framework for economic development professionals to challenge their thinking about planning and sustainability and learn new tools and strategies to enhance their local, regional and organizational planning processes.  Within this highly interactive, experiential learning course, the presenter uses direct instruction, individual self-assessment, and group participation including examples and applications of session concepts.  “Take home” tools and application materials are also provided. 

Topics include:

  • Introductions & Expectations
  1. Participants will be asked , “This session will be successful for me today if we (what)…..”  The presentation will be geared toward meeting participant expectations
  • Today’s Planning Model (and why it doesn’t work anymore)
  • Individual Self-assessment (how well does our agency plan, innovate and execute and how equipped are we for sustainability)
  • Macro” (community/regional) versus “Micro” (agency) planning – what is the difference, why both are important to the economic development agency and how they should be approached
  • Process Management Strategies and Effective Tools and Techniques to incorporate into your planning process
  • Board Engagement, Alignment and Commitment strategies to enable board members to understand their role in governance, oversight, planning and fundraising and to support plan implementation without micromanagement
  • Staff Involvement and Leadership Development strategies to ensure effective implementation and succession within organizations
  • Lessons Learned
  • Takeaways

At the beginning of the session, participants are polled using OptionFinder audience response polling system to determine their backgrounds, experiences, expertise levels and prior knowledge of the topic area.  This allows the presenter to tailor specific remarks during the session, provide highly targeted information that meets attendees’ training needs, and yields opportunities to encourage idea/expertise sharing among audience members.    Throughout the session, OptionFinder is used periodically to get input and feedback from the audience regarding the topics presented and to facilitate discussion.  The program ends with a review of both the “take home” tools and specific ways to incorporate learning into individual organizations. 

The presentation contains the basic course outline; and materials and handouts are prepared to offer note-taking opportunities.  The handouts also include examples, checklists and tools that participants can apply in the field.  


Debra Thompson, BS, MBA, is President of Strategy Solutions, Inc. In this position she provides strategic planning facilitation, training and planning and research project management services to organizations and communities who want to grow and thrive.  The company grew out of her previous community health leadership role as she served as Director of Planning for Hamot Health Foundation.  During her 10 years there she was responsible for strategic planning, market research, marketing information systems, as well as community planning support for the organization, its joint ventures and affiliates. 

Throughout her tenure at Hamot and work with a consortium of prominent experts, Debra created a unique approach to data collection, analysis and facilitation that is successful for individual organizations, systems and communities. Her project work and clients have been recognized by the International Economic Development Council, the International Association of Facilitators, US News and World Report, US Department of Health and Human Services and by the Pennsylvania Departments of Health, Welfare and Education. A graduate of Villa Maria College with a B.S. in Marketing, Debbie received her Master of Business Administration from Gannon University. She has also completed advanced training in Strategic Planning, Quantitative and Qualitative Market Research, Total Quality Management and Leadership Development, Systems Thinking & Facilitation (through affiliates of MIT) and is a 1993 graduate of Leadership Erie. She was a member of the 2003 inaugural class of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership “Women in Leadership” program in Pittsburgh, and is also a Coro Certified Trainer. 

Debra is on the adjunct faculty of Duquesne University where she teaches organizational development and program development/evaluation in the Masters of Organizational Leadership program.  She was also an adjunct professor at Gannon University for 10 years where she taught Strategic Planning, Research Methods and Program Development.  She has also completed the BoardSource Board Governance Training program and is a trainer for the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations Standards for Excellence Program.  Chosen as one of Pennsylvania’s Best 50 Women in Business 2001, she was honored as one of Erie’s “Dynamic Dozen” of Women Making History in 2003 and was a finalist for the International Stevie Award for Women in Business in 2006 in the Technology Innovator category.  Debra was also a finalist for the Woman of the Year in Erie, 2008.

Attention Certified Providers: This course is approved to provide 3.00 organizational PDUs (Organizational Management) as explained in the Guidelines for Certification of Economic Development Organizations issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and in the Institute’s Policies and Procedures.

*Note: We reserve the right to reschedule or cancel this offering.  In the event of a cancellation, a refund will be provided to registrants.

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