PPR Strategies


Cyndi Lauper’s musical through the eyes of an economic developer

Around this time last year, I was studying for the Certified Economic Developer exam. While I was in the midst of my studies, I started seeing everything through the lens of an economic developer. (Can you relate?)

I even viewed a musical titled Kinky Boots through the economic development lens! The show, with music and lyrics by Cyndi Lauper, was playing at the Olney Theatre Center in Montgomery County, Maryland. The premise is that a shoemaker (the dad) owns a multigenerational shoe manufacturing facility. His only son, Charlie, didn’t have a passion for shoes and left to go on his own path. When the dad dies, Charlie comes back to handle his dad’s affairs… i.e., the factory. 

Without the dad to lead the store with his passion, the business (and its 12 employees) struggled. Charlie was faced with the question of: Now what? In this kind of situation, how do you pivot? 

In a multigenerational family business, business retention is a concern. If the CEO passes away, there needs to be a succession plan in place. There are so many obstacles to consider, like maintaining your workforce, sustaining working capital (or simply making payroll), and possibly closing and redeveloping the space for an alternative use.

In an interesting twist, the son ends up meeting a drag queen named Lola who’s in need of some sturdy boots! The new product ends up reinventing the store and saving the business. But first, Charlie has to learn how to open his mind to someone very different from him. (That’s a whole other blog on the importance of inclusivity.)

While watching the show, my mind was spinning with ideas related to business retention and expansion, financing assistance, workforce development, job training, employee retention, real estate redevelopment potential, and diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. The list goes on and on!

How does your work shape how you see the world? Are you always trying to connect friends with business resources? Are you the go-to person people talk to when they’re looking for a new job? Is the Visitor’s Center your first stop when you’re in a new town or country? 

You don’t stop being an economic developer after 5:00 pm on a Friday. You see everything through that lens, especially the ways you can help. That’s one of the things I love most about this industry and the people in it. 

Reimagining Places With You,
Sandy Dubay, CEcD, and the PPR Strategies Team

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