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What Are Your Community's Magnets?

As Dolly Parton says, figure out what you do well and do it on purpose.

Dane Carlson
Dane Carlson
2 min read
What Are Your Community's Magnets?

The following is a thought leadership post by Andy Portera of Portera & Associates, LLC.

The Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering ("ASCTE") is a public school in Huntsville, Alabama, that just moved into this state-of-the-art building. The ASCTE serves students across Alabama and is one of the first high schools in the country where cyber technology and engineering are infused throughout the curriculum. Here are a few quick facts about ASCTE:

  • It opened in 2019.
  • There are 255 students in grades 9-12 (about 40% of the students are boarders);
  • 38% are students of color;
  • 80% of core faculty hold advanced degrees;
  • 100% of students take AP courses;
  • 100% of students participate in internships with over 70 industry partners like Raytheon Technologies, Northrop Grumman, Alabama Power, Siemens, Facebook, Deloitte, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.
  • Unique course offerings include Technical Writing, Social Engineering, Bio-Tech, Drone Racing; and
  • Tuition and housing are FREE!

ASCTE is a one-of-a-kind high school.

It is also an economic development magnet. The ASCTE tells the world that Alabama is serious about training the future workforce. It sends the message to the citizens of Huntsville and Alabama that we are investing in your future. The ASCTE will also help attract prospective companies that want to tap into this high-tech workforce. The impact of ASCTEon Alabama's economy may be hard to measure accurately, but it will be significant.


What are your community's magnets?

It could be a robust K-12 system, a community college offering a cutting-edge curriculum, a new Career-Technical education center, a top-notch mountain bike trail system, a hospital, a vibrant downtown, or many other things. Every community is unique and will have different magnets. But every community needs a magnet that it can invest in and leverage. Magnets are essential in economic development because:

  • They are what makes your community unique.
  • They are your competitive advantage.
  • They help you attract investment.
  • They help support your economy.
  • They are the building blocks of your community's future.
  • You can leverage them to create more growth and opportunities.

Your community needs to identify its magnets. Then, invest in your magnets to make them more robust, and work to connect them to as many other areas of the community as possible. Look for ways to grow their impact and create momentum. The more magnets you can create and develop, the better. Not every community needs an ASCTE, but every community needs something that attracts people, businesses, and investment.

As Dolly Parton says, figure out what you do well and do it on purpose. Magnets are essential to your community's economic development and survival. Identify and invest in them!


by Andy Portera of Portera & Associates, LLC.  Subscribe to Andy's Rural Economic Development Newsletter on LinkedIn.

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Dane Carlson Twitter

Founder/Host of Econ Dev Show. By day: Director of Economic Development for Galveston County, Texas.