ROI’s Meet the Team Series is meant to showcase some of our exceptional team members and share in their passion for all things economic development. We also have a little bit of fun to help you get to know the ROI Team on a more personal level.
Meet Shannon Lynch, our Vice President of Business Development. In this interview we delve into how a year abroad studying in Germany led to a serendipitous career in economic development. And we also touch on the incredible resilience of economic development organizations as they navigate through the Covid-19 pandemic.
So, without further ado, here are some highlights of the ROI Team’s interview with Shannon Lynch:
What is your role at ROI?
My role as VP of Business Development is to speak with economic development organizations regarding how ROI can help them find investment attraction projects. I consult with them about the matchmaking services that ROI offers that connect communities looking to grow their economies with expanding companies.
Can you tell us a little more about who these clients are?
The clients I usually speak to represent a chamber of commerce, an economic development organization (EDO), or a utility company — but really anyone with an economic development function.
How did you discover the world of economic development?
To be perfectly honest, I sort of accidentally fell into the world of economic development. It wasn’t a career I knew I wanted until I started living it.
Having spent a junior year of university in Germany, and being fluent in the language, one of my first jobs after graduation was working at the German American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago. In this role, I helped German SMEs expand their operations in the US by establishing subsidiaries here, running their virtual offices, and growing their US sales footprint by coordinating business or partner meetings.
This was my first foray into the world of economic development, and I found myself really enjoying it.
Then, I switched sides, so-to-speak, and started working for a German EDO. There I helped North American companies expand operations to the Frankfurt area.
And now, I work for ROI and we have clients all around the world. So, in my current role I have the pleasure of learning about new regions all the time. I get to discover what makes their community unique and what they do best. But what I enjoy the most is listening to what my clients are hoping to achieve and how ROI can help them accomplish their goals.
What does economic development mean to you? And do you feel the general public has a good enough understanding of the industry?
Good question. I think it’s a question that we should be discussing more often because economic development has such an important impact on our daily lives — but few outside the industry really give it much thought.
For example, pre-Covid, some of my friends used to jokingly call me an international spy because they didn’t readily understand what my job was, and I traveled all the time for work. While it’s funny to consider myself in the same vein as James Bond, I think it speaks to a larger problem in the economic development world — most people don’t know a lot about it. Unless you’re working in the field, economic development goes on in the background, sight unseen.
But to answer the first part of your question, what economic development means to me is thriving communities and good jobs.
I love working in economic development because it’s a job I can feel good about — knowing that I’m part of a system that is doing something positive in the world. I take a great deal of satisfaction in that fact.
What aspect of working for ROI do you enjoy the most?
I love talking to different regions from around the world and seeing how they are doing, how they are handling Covid, how they are maintaining resilience. I also love the team at ROI. Everyone is so hardworking, dedicated, supportive, and they know what they’re doing and where they’re going!
What trends are you seeing? What are clients looking for?
When it comes to economic development during Covid, there are really two categories EDOs fall into. For one category, the regions hard hit by Covid restrictions, there is a lot more uncertainty. My calls with these regions are now more exploratory and less laser focused. With Covid throwing a wrench into so many regions’ plans for new business, these EDOs are taking a more inward focus, making sure existing businesses are stable and trying to chart a path forward as the pandemic slowly subsides.
The other category are the EDOs that have never been busier. Regions that make semiconductors, medical equipment, or specialize in logistics for example, are booming. But as vaccination efforts ramp up, and pandemic restrictions are gradually lifted, these two categories are slowly merging and there are a lot of positive signs that business is cautiously returning to normal.
Do you have an inspirational quote you enjoy?
I used to work in a pie-bakery for about a decade, not to mention I just love baking in general, so this one always made me smile:
“Early to bed
Early to rise
Bake all day
Sell those pies”
-Unknown @ Achatz Handmade Pie Co.
What would be your superhero power?
Tough question but I think I would choose the ability to read minds.
If you could compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?
Well, I love the water and I’m not the most graceful person, so I will have to pick a seal.
Chocolate or vanilla ice cream?
Cats or dogs?
I have two cats so if I have to pick one, I’ll go with cats. But I love dogs too!