From the Director: Challenges Call for a New Approach

January 6, 2023 | By Ryan Touhill

Ryan Touhill

It’s been just over a month since I joined the team at Arlington Economic Development, and it’s been exciting to learn about the Arlington community. In addition to the expertise of the team at AED, I’ve had the opportunity to sit down with the valued members of Arlington’s Economic Development Commission, joined the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Silver Diner in Ballston, had lunch with business leaders at the Arlington Chamber’s annual meeting and met some of the brightest minds of tomorrow at a reception for the new cohort of the Arlington Tech TALENT Pilot Program. I want to thank everyone for the warm welcome I have received so far.

During each of these encounters I’ve heard firsthand from business leaders around Arlington about the economic challenges we continue to face. I’ve heard about uncertainty in the office market, rising costs and competition, sourcing top talent or finding capital to start a small business, to name a few. I’m also hearing over and over that we need to think differently - that the traditional model of economic development that has served us well in the past must be revamped to help us address the complex challenges of today.

If our goal is to see businesses succeed at all levels of business, across all sectors, and in every corner of the County, we must address these challenges so they won’t continue to hinder our economic growth. As we enter the new year, I am excited to share that AED will be shifting our mindset and strategy. We are going to embrace the “new normal” and the challenges it presents. We will be proactive and constantly seeking to discover innovative ideas and solutions by asking questions, challenging assumptions and taking creative risks. We will also stay nimble so we can double down on solutions that work while quickly learning from any mistakes.

Then, we are going to work with our partners across Arlington to develop our new strategy for economic growth and prosperity. I’m excited to share that I’ll be going out in the new year to visit business and community leaders around Arlington to hear their ideas on how we can address our biggest economic development challenges. This input will be vital to creating an informed and aligned strategy.

And finally, we will focus on making strategic investments in economic development to support priority programs and projects. Some of this may be done by realigning existing resources. But, given the size and complexity of our challenges, we will likely seek new investments that can in turn bring big returns for our community.

I’ll be the first to admit that this shift in our approach and strategy may be uncomfortable at first. I’m confident though that we will adapt to meet the moment. I look forward to sharing more details about our new strategy as it evolves and hearing your suggestions, and I wish you a happy and healthy New Year!


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