September 26, 2022


So Many Acronyms are involved in the field of Economic Development. This year, the largest professional organization for Economic Developers, the International Economic Development Council, held their annual conference in Oklahoma City. This event brings in national and international attendees and speakers and presents technical sessions and opportunities to network with leaders in the Economic Development Field.


Why It’s Important: The Ada Jobs Foundation supported this event as a sponsor and ensured that all of our staff could attend the event, learn from the sessions, and take advantage of networking opportunities. This conference, in particular, is our best way to expose our staff to the professional practice of economic development. We are working to advance and be innovative in our work in this space, and these conferences present opportunities for us to sharpen our skills and gain new ideas, all while promoting the work we do in Ada to the larger world.


A session on Rural Innovation as an Economic Development Strategy was organized by Jim Eldridge for the IEDC Annual Conference. He was joined by an expert panel of speakers:

  • Mignonne Hollis, Executive Director of the Arizona Regional Economic Development Foundation. She is also an active member of the Rural Innovation Network.

  • Kevin Dick, President and CEO of the Carolina Small Business Fund, which is a CDFI that works throughout North Carolina to provide capital and technical assistance to small businesses.


The Opportunity: This session provided an opportunity to talk about the work we do to an international audience and provided an opportunity to share the perspective of other economic developers doing similar work throughout the U.S.


A key takeaway was part of the roundtable discussion which focused on the unique networks available in rural communities. The panelists discussed how they were able to be resourceful and tap into unique networks, such as churches, non-profits, and informal community groups as a way to find entrepreneurs and help create engagement around startup support services at a grass-roots level.


Peggy Saunkeah's weekly shout out to individuals, companies, and organizations working to enhance Ada and our economic development efforts.

Saunkeah Shout OUT this week is for JAMES “JIM” ELDRIDGE…


Jim Eldridge grew up wanting to be an anthropologist or a city planner. Instead, he puts both of those skillsets to use as an economic developer in Ada, Oklahoma. The President and CEO of Ada Jobs Foundation thinks that economic developers need to change the ways in which we work.


According to Jim, “So much of the work we do, day-to-day, in our field is pragmatic, but we spend too little time thinking about more innovative or better ways of improving our ability to support our local communities and economies. We must spend more time thinking about new and different ways of making our work more effective.”


Personally, I respect that Jim Eldridge is a leader who is energized by brainstorming sessions and who loves thinking about all the things that could be. I love being part of this innovative plan for my hometown ADA. So do our partners, such as The Chickasaw Nation, the Rural Innovation Network, Rural Enterprises of Oklahoma, the International Economic Development Council, OG&E, East Central University, Pontotoc Technology Center, the City of Ada, and many others.  Jim is the type of leader who listens to everyone’s individual story and sees the unique value that everyone brings to the table for a better, unique and growing ADA!


According to AJF team member, Daniel Castaneda, Economic Development Specialist, some major visionary contributions that Jim Eldridge has made in this past year are helping The City of Ada secure the highly competitive RISE Award.  Additionally, Daniel states that AJF received the Build to Scale award which has already proven to be a success with the AJF team growing in capacity and impact on the community! He states, “Ask about us and we’re everywhere.”


The qualities Daniel admires most about working with Jim would be his willingness to help whenever help is needed but also pushing him to go further, reach higher and continually challenge himself to be the best in the field. Daniel respects Jim’s mentorship and appreciates his commitment to teaching him to be an innovative leader in the Ada community.  Daniel is most thankful for this AJF opportunity which allows him to work with a team that is willing to work for community! Everyone is passionate about making Ada a better place and Daniel is thankful to be a part of a team that cares about the professional and personal growth of one another.


The newest member of the AJF Team is Community Manager, Ashia Todd, who shares that she admires Jim’s ability to trust his staff and not micro-manage the team. Ashia is most excited with this AJF opportunity which will allow her to make a difference in her Ada community and for entrepreneurs.


Ashia and all the AJF team want to conclude our “Shout Out” to Jim Eldridge and Ada Jobs Foundation with a hearty “Congratulations and Way to Go!” for receiving the Excellence in Entrepreneurial Services Award for 2022. Jim and the Ada Jobs Foundation will be honored by REI of Oklahoma at their Dream Big Oklahoma 2022 event to be held next month at the Grand Casino Hotel & Resort.


Small businesses are often expanding and creating new jobs. One large corporation is unlikely to hire hundreds of new workers, but across the city multiple small businesses can easily hire hundreds of new workers cumulatively. Whereas traditional economic development focused primarily on larger companies, entrepreneurship nourishment is a much larger component of growth than it used to be.

There is more than one way to expand economically and bring vibrant growth to a community. To learn more about growing Ada business, sign up for our newsletter! Scan the QR Code.


Ada Jobs Foundation


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