Challenging. Rewarding. Enriching. Satisfying. A lot of words can be used to describe economic development, but these four consistently rise to the top of the list.

Among the many people involved in the work of economic development in and for greater Lake Wales, “challenging” is used in the most positive sense — demanding in a way that’s interesting, competitive and enjoyable. It’s the kind of challenge that would prompt me to leave a regional leadership post with the Indiana Economic Development Corp. — and business recruiting work in the Chicago area — and happily come to more rural Central Florida 14 months ago to help expand and diversify the economy here — to be a part of something special and exciting.

When new businesses are recruited, when existing businesses are expanded or retained and when industries are created, then comes the fruit of the labor — the reward of knowing that the community is being helped in a positive and meaningful way.

When new businesses are recruited, when existing businesses are expanded or retained and when industries are created, then comes the fruit of the labor — the reward of knowing that the community is being helped in a positive and meaningful way.

When there’s good, solid and sustained economic growth, people tend to have more choices, more opportunities and more income. That’s where enrichment comes in — not just for a select few, but for a much wider segment of the population at all wage-earning levels.

Some people wonder and ask: Can real economic development happen in Lake Wales? Is this the kind of community that can expand existing industries, and attract new businesses with above average wage jobs? The questions bring to mind a story from college football.

Many here will remember when University of Florida coaching legend Steve Spurrier was announced as the head football coach at South Carolina. Following a highly successful career with the Gators and two not-so-successful years coaching in the NFL, Spurrier had several good options for his next coaching stop. His choice of South Carolina, not exactly a football powerhouse in the way UF had become under his leadership, had a lot of people scratching their heads. One of the questions Spurrier took at his introductory press conference at South Carolina, in November 2004, went something like this: “What makes you think you can win at South Carolina like you did at Florida?”

His answer? “I’d like to borrow a phrase from the Boston Red Sox: ‘Why not us?’ Why can’t we get to the top of the SEC (Southeastern Conference)? Certainly, that’s going to be my vision and my goal.”

When it comes down to the possibilities for vibrant economic development for Lake Wales, we can echo Spurrier: “Why not us? Why not Lake Wales? Why not Central Florida?”

As we’ve described in this space a number of times, Lake Wales and southeast Polk County offer many amenities to any number of businesses looking to build or set up a branch operation in Central Florida. The task in economic development is to tell the great story about Lake Wales and the region to as many business leaders and site selectors as we can, as often as we can. In doing so, we have to be upbeat, optimistic and persistent.

As Carol Dweck, Ph.D., explains in her book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success — How We can Learn to Fulfill Our Potential, it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring success — in parenting, relationships, school or, in our case, business — but whether people approach them with a fixed or growth mindset.

In the work of economic development, success doesn’t just happen, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but with a growth mindset — throughout the community — growth will happen. Like anything else worthwhile, you have to stick with it, maintain your vision and keep pursuing your goals.

So, why Lake Wales as a destination for new businesses? Why not Lake Wales? Why not us?