I had a chance to attend some sessions for a Economic Develoment conference in Oklahoma City this week. Traditional Economic Development activities basically meant going and finding companies that want to move - usually manufacturing - to a new location. They then schmooze them and get them to your community.
This really had nothing to do with entrepreneurs. And it still does not have much for early stage ventures. Yet, there is a greater realization that the small business already in your community could be a driver of employment and economic development. That means you might actually have some cause - particularly if you are growing and anding jobs in the local community - to stop in to the local economic development office.
While there are still a few dinosaurs that might send you away, most economic developers are looking to show they have brought additional jobs into their community - and if you can help them show that - they can help you. For example, in Oklahoma, there are some site opportunities, help you with locating employees, community development funds. None of it is pure cash on the barrelhead, but it can be a little extra to help!
Again, this is an area you don't want to devote a large amount of time. If you have a good #2 or even a product manager, that might be something for them to investigate and get back with you.
With the economy tough all around, you might find some community doors more open than have been in the past. Plus if the local economic development people get to know you, other opportunities may arise in the future - maybe a company in a related field is looking for a specific partner? It can't hurt to be aware of those possibilities.