In economic free fall we need heroes, not the three-headed hydra of apathy, envy and fear.

With heroic leadership, your State Department of Economic Development could help every county survive economic free fall. A hydra in charge would bankrupt us.


This fifteen-part series introduces you to the heroic partners you and your community will require to survive and thrive during pandemics and economic disruptions. The articles also provide tips on avoiding the three-headed hydras of apathy, envy and fear, those people in positions of power who are fighting to keep a broken status quo.

Your State Department of Economic Development

How secure is your job? Where are jobs today? Where will they be tomorrow? Who is in charge of local workforce development? How does a state government support local governments in creating an economic engine in a post-pandemic world with economic disruptions occurring daily?

These are the questions facing every state’s director of economic development. A heroic leader will rise to the challenges these questions present, empowered by data, research and technology. A three-headed hydra will smile and fake it.

Our personal health depends on local economic health

Local economies are intrinsically tied to the ten surviving and thriving sectors (those providing the services for health care, education, housing security, transportation, job training, etc.) for a host of reasons.

Economic life can be radically disrupted by many factors including a public health crisis. In our work, we visit city centers that appear like ghost towns, where the jobs are few, businesses constantly fail and entrepreneurship is almost unheard of.

When people in some economic development circles hear of data-driven and collaborative plans to ensure services for surviving and thriving across a county, they may fail to see how healthy residents equal a healthy local economy. Our job is to work with every elected leader in a county, with support from the State Department of Economic Development, to connect the dots among:

1) families lacking access to vital services

2) a failing school experience

3) a lack of job readiness

4) a less-than-thriving workforce

5) a local economic engine that sputters without productive workers and

6) the lack of an entrepreneurial spirit, which is needed to start up innovative zones in city centers where new local businesses are born.

You may have a superstar with vast positive experience in business development on the state and local levels working within economic development, or not. Again, it all depends on the governor’s choice for cabinet secretary of the State Department of Economic Development.

Many people working in what might be described as health and safety promotion are confused as to why we see economic development that leads to jobs as a key component of any illness or injury prevention initiative, but one of the ten sectors we focus on is “job training and higher education.” Your state Department of Economic Development leaders and staff may be housed literally next door to the Department of Public Health but odds are they have never shared a joint strategy meeting to discuss goals in each state’s counties — even though they work for the same communities.

A challenge. An opportunity.

The Department of Economic Development does have an incredible opportunity: to harness the thinking of the private sector and their success stories to create environments where companies move to states where residents can grow successful businesses.

In a perfect world, this state department would be working with every county and city government to develop local offices of economic development. While the state may well have resources for extensive research, local governments may not, so this transfer of information on what could work in both urban and rural localities is vital. If you are lucky enough to have a grounded and accomplished cabinet secretary guiding the State Department of Economic Development, you have a chance to engage as a representative of local government and/or community stakeholders. You can learn what resources and supports can be provided to your countywide initiative with a focus on ensuring that all residents have a chance at training for jobs that align with the current and future job markets.

Who does economic development in your communities?

When you search online for your state Department of Economic Development, you may find text like this on the home page: “Our Community, Business & Rural Development Team helps communities achieve economic growth and diversity. Team members are located in offices throughout the state.” This could be great news. In our perfect world, your state department of economic development has data informing action, with regional experts to support county work.

If you can make a solid connection, share the goals of your county initiative and how economic development is vital in terms of addressing a host of disparities. You will want to ask about funding for downtown development projects, like creating a new arts district as part of revitalizing a main street. Or perhaps research will tell you that downtown development is not a wise investment (at least for awhile), and countywide online job training and placement is. Ideally, you are working with people who fully understand how data and research should guide all work — along with some risk-taking that is at the heart of startups.

Bottom line

The state department of economic development can bring private sector thinking to public sector challenges. The department is poised to convene the best minds in business to generate ideas for economic development in every county and region of the state. Every city mayor and councilor and county commissioner should be receiving from the state department of economic development, weekly podcasts, videocasts and articles on trends in job growth and innovative ideas working across the nation and globe to generate jobs and entrepreneurial enterprises in both rural and urban areas. It is truly a brave new world out there in the shifting job market, and a well-resourced and research-based State Department of Economic Development can guide localities to success.

The future is what we make it. Join the evolution.

Please excuse any typos as I construct an article at 3am on only one cup of Joe. These stories are mine and mine alone. I do not represent any organization here. If one of my illustrations looks like a real human or three-headed hydra, that’s total coincidence. Words and images ©Dominic Cappello but share with everyone you know. Any questions? The future awaits:



A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.

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Dominic Cappello

A NY Times bestselling author, social justice activist, Oprah guest, co-author of Attack of the Three-Headed Hydras, 100% Community and Anna, Age Eight.