Step 2: The competitive assessment

This stage involves research and information gathering from internal (local authority wide) and external public, private and not-for-profit sources. Identify needs, gaps and sources together with associated data storage and analysis systems. Don't worry if you don't have much information to start with – use what you have and build from there. Share this information with stakeholders. This is an ongoing, never-ending activity.

Undertake a complete analysis of all the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) that you can identify, making sure that this is undertaken with full participation of the stakeholders. It can first be done on large sheets of paper and then later presented more formally as part of the LED Strategy document. Care is needed in LED strategic planning to undertake a very broad analysis at this stage as each of the four areas (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) matter equally for LED strategy making. You will need information at a local level, including comparative information. Also you will need information about the competitive positions of towns and cities in your region, as you will be both competing and collaborating with them.

LED INFORMATION

The following is a listing of the types of information you will find useful to collect. Don't be put off by its length, whatever you have will be a good start, and build from there. Some of the essential data you will need to start with is some information on what formal and informal businesses operate in your area and the skills and availability of the local workforce. From this you can build more information into your planning processes.

HUMAN RESOURCES

Population

By size, age breakdown, growth rate, projected growth rate, household size, population density. This could include a poverty mapping exercise to identify various demographic characteristics by wards in the locality.

Employment

  • Employees in employment by industrial activity, compare with region and nationally, changes over time if possible (temporally).
  • Age structure of employed and occupation breakdown of employed and unemployed.
  • Structure of employment (full/part time/male/female) compare nationally/temporally.
  • Average gross monthly earnings by gender and full and part time.
  • Unemployment figures, by numbers, age, duration.
  • Numbers and other information on people in the informal sector.

Education

  • Numbers and types of schools, numbers of teachers (full time equivalent) and class sizes.
  • Further and Higher Education establishments by type and numbers attending.
  • Educational attainment levels by numbers and types.

Training

  • Numbers and types and age groups of technically qualified individuals, and those going through training programmes.
  • An assessment of skill/ occupational shortages/ oversupply.

ECONOMY

  • Numbers and sizes of firms, broken down by sector, numbers of full time equivalent employees, in time series if possible.
  • Number and type of recent (say last 10 years) firm closures, by size, sector and date.
  • Numbers of inward investments, foreign and domestic, both Greenfield and portfolio investment by employee size, sector and date.
  • Numbers of new business start ups, by size, sector/ activity and longevity.
  • Numbers of companies that export/to where/what by sector/company size.
  • Top 50 (or so, this is a good number but may be hard to achieve on the ground) companies by size/ employment or turnover by sector and named.
  • Business tax income.
  • Rental/purchase costs for vacant industrial and service sector units, by time series and size groupings.
  • Vacancy rates of industrial and commercial space by size, location, absorption rates.
  • Port/Airport/Rail cargo/passenger statistics.

INFRASTRUCTURE

You will need to develop an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses your area offers in terms of hard and soft infrastructure provision. The soft infrastructure of the city will include its 'Business Welcome". Areas that need to be addressed here include:

  • Taxation of businesses.
  • Amount of red tape.
  • Ease of getting through red tape.
  • Supporting business networks, such as Chambers of commerce.
  • Local authority economic development support.
  • Access to funding.
  • Quality of life factors.

BEYOND YOUR AREA

  • In developing your locality's economic development strategy you will need to look at what neighbouring areas are doing in terms of their local economies, how they are competing with you and how they are or could collaborate with you.
  • you need to select your strategies with as much knowledge as you can on what these cities are doing and planning to do.
  • The national government and even the regional government may also be providing both opportunities and threats too, so look there too to identify issues.

Sources of all this data are likely to be varied. While a data mining company such as Global Insight might have a lot of data on industrialised developed countries, there is far less available in developing countries. The first port of call would be your national statistical service. Not all data will be disaggregated down to municipal boundaries however, and many data sets will simply not be collected by central Statistical Services due to capacity and resource constraints. In these areas you need to think creatively about where existing data may reside. For example internal Revenue Services (such as SARS in South Africa), hold extensive data on companies which can be disaggregated by locality. Port authorities will hold useful data on imports and exports passing through. Universities and other education institutions may have local studies of value. Co-opting these institutions represented locally onto the LED steering committee may be a strategic way of opening up local contribution of time and expertise.