Regional Solutions Reports

East Texas Council of Governments

Economic Development Districts deliver an increasingly complex and wide-ranging suite of services to the localities that they serve, so much so that it is sometimes difficult for board members, elected officials, partners, and other stakeholders to keep track of the full scope of those services. While most EDDs produce annual impact reports, they often struggle to balance between readability and complexity, and breadth and specificity. As a result, member municipalities may not always fully appreciate the impact of their annual EDD dues.  Until recently, the East Texas Council of Governments (ETCOG) had struggled with this challenge. “I have served as executive director of this organization for 15 years,” says ETCOG Executive Director David Cleveland. “During that time, the one consistent message I have heard from elected officials and citizens alike is ‘Until we got involved, we absolutely had no idea all that ETCOG does for us and for our 14-county region.’” 

In response to the challenge of demonstrating regional impact, ETCOG now delivers a region-wide Solutions Report as well as customized reports to all fifteen counties that it serves.  The mixed-media Solutions Reports include an ‘At-a-Glance’ style hard copy that is mailed with each dues statement to members as well as a link to the full online report which goes into depth and specificity on every ETCOG service provided to each locality. Care is taken to make sure that the reports are delivered in plain language and are data-filled, interactive, and colorful. Moreover, they are archived on the ETCOG’s website so that readers can go back and see a multi-year overview of the services they’ve received.  The reports are also complemented by a “Year in Review” video hosted online.

While the Solutions Reports originally required significant effort to create, ETCOG has worked to streamline the sharing of information between departments to make sure that the data is available and clearly categorized. Staff have found that the Solutions Reports are useful not just as a communications tool, but also as an internal way to gauge their impact on each locality they serve. “Developing the system was a tremendous effort, but now that we have a system it will be much easier year after year to keep doing it,” says Cleveland. Because grant funders and state and federal partners already require similar reports and performance data, the return on investment of simply converting it to the Solutions Reports format has been very high. 

The Solutions Reports highlight many of the projects and initiatives identified in the region’s CEDS, including the deployment of a $375,000 U.S. EDA broadband planning grant that has led to the development of an East Texas Broadband Strategic Plan.  Developing these reports also meet the CEDS goal of “Foster[ing] a discussion between the public and private players in education, business, and the workforce” as these reports are shared throughout the region to highlight how the COG and EDD is collaborating with key partners, including Workforce Solutions East Texas and the Area Agency on Aging of East Texas.  

ETCOG has heard consistently positive feedback since implementing the Annual Solutions Reports and continues to refine and expand them each year. “If you can’t demonstrate the value of your organization, you’re in trouble,” Cleveland explains. “This isn’t icing on the cake, this is at the core of what you should be doing.” By documenting and publishing the results of their work, ETCOG annually reinforces the importance of its role in promoting regional economic development and improved quality of life for East Texas residents.  Click here to view the ETCOG Solutions Report and Year in Review video.  

Key Takeaways:

  • Focus on Demonstrating Value: EDDs manage an increasingly diverse portfolio of projects in the communities they serve, but in many cases local stakeholders only understand a small part of their value. By integrating communications into the core of its operations model and leading with clear, consistent language in its annual Solutions Reports, ETCOG has been able to overcome the knowledge gap and ensure its members understand the full scope of the services it provides. ETCOG’s communication strategy isn’t siloed away from its planning and economic development services, but a part of daily workflows across the organization.

  • Personalize Communications: Communications professionals know that capturing the attention of information-overloaded audiences is an endemic challenge. By customizing reports for each community it serves, ETCOG is able to deliver its message to readers in a format that is relevant, timely, and concise. Tailoring the content to the audience goes beyond specificity as well—the Solutions Reports are written in plain language, with easy-to-understand graphics and formatting.

This case study was written by Dion Thompson-Davoli, NADO RF Research Fellow


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2023 Impact Awards

The primary applicant must be a NADO member. Project partners, both NADO and non-members, can be recognized under "Project Partners" below.

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This person will be the designated point of contact for all future awards-related correspondence.

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Please upload your organization's logo which will be included on the winning project award certificate.

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This title will be printed on the award certificate for winning projects and in all 2022 NADO Impact Award materials and cannot be changed.

Project Summary & Questions
Please craft clear, thoughtful, and engaging responses to the following questions. Use the following sections to tell us how your project has made an impact, such as its use of creative funding mechanisms, efforts to create efficiencies or reduce costs, unique partnership models, and emphasis on building resilience and/or enhancing your region's quality of life.

For award-winning projects, the information provided below may be used verbatim to inform project descriptions that will be published in the 2023 NADO Impact Awards materials and included on the NADO website.

Please submit at least one photo showing your project in action. Please keep file size to a minimum (<2Mb) and use JPEG format. If uploading multiple files, ZIP files prior to submitting. If you have trouble uploading images they can be directly emailed to Brett Schwartz at [email protected]. Include the project title they correspond to in the subject line of your email.

Note: Submitted photos may be used in NADO Impact Awards materials and in other NADO published materials with credit to your organization. Please also consider submitting photos for NADO's 2023 Photo Contest, which will be held this summer.

Your application is not submitted until you are directed to a confirmation page. If you have any questions or are unsure if your application has been submitted, please contact Brett Schwartz at [email protected]

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Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.

Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.

McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.

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