Economic Development

Economic development is a process, effort or undertaking to advance the competitiveness and quality of life of a community, area, or region through investments in people, physical infrastructure and technology that create the jobs and wealth, sustainable environments, and workforce necessary in the global market place of today. Economic development is dependent on enterprise development and both involve location work that considers people, market demographics, worker availability, goods movement, services, information technology, and transportation. Regional councils and metropolitan planning organizations are leaders in economic development and known for their ability to collaborate and capacity to bring to the table diverse players to make a difference economically in an area or region.

Economic Development Policy Brief

Economic development is important for the sustained and concerted actions of policy makers and communities that promote the standard of living and economic health of a region. EDA is the only federal agency focused solely on private sector job growth and serves as a vital resource for distressed communities striving to improve their local economies through bottom-up economic development strategies with infrastructure grants, strategic planning assistance, business development capital or technical assistance. According to EDA, its programs help “create new American jobs at a cost of only $2,825 per job” and “leverages over $28 in private sector investments for every taxpayer dollar we invest.”

EDA was last reauthorized under passage of the Public Works and Economic Development Act, which expired in 2008, and there have also been several attempts by members of Congress to eliminate the agency. EDA’s Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies (CEDs) have been beneficial to many regions by bringing together the public and private sectors in creation of an economic roadmap to diversify and strengthen regional economies. NARC and its members support sufficient and sustained funding for the EDA as an important element of public investment in infrastructure development, creating jobs and boosting local, regional and national economies.

NARC Member Case Studies

  • Small businesses growth and retention - Southeastern Regional Planning & Economic Development District (SRPEDD), Taunton, MA:  In a 2013 CEDS update, SRPEDD envisions that by the year 2020, the economy of southeastern Massachusetts will meet or exceed the conventional measures of economic performance relative to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and the United States. Southeastern Massachusetts embraces the need to support and nurture indigenous local businesses as a high regional priority. For example, the Southeastern Economic Development Cooperation (SEED) assists and supports small businesses in their start-up phase in order to help prepare them for traditional bank financing. SEED Venture Finance manages SEED Ventures LP, a $20 million Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) focused on investments in small and medium sized businesses in Southeastern Massachusetts.
  • Studying Regional Economic Competitiveness - Blackhawk Hills Regional Council, Rock Hill, IL: The Five County Economic Economic Study and Recovery Plan was created by the economic development agencies from Carroll, Lee, Ogle, Stephenson, and Whiteside Counties that partnered with Northern Illinois University’s Center for Governmental Studies. They received funding from the EDA in 2011 to conduct to studies of the region’s businesses. The study was conducted to analyze the competitiveness of wages and benefits paid to workers in the region. The study also assessed the extent of underemployment that exists in the region and the opportunities to educate and leverage that resource.
  • Economic Development, Energy and Advanced Manufacturing - Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Youngstown, OH:The EDA approved a $200,000 grant to Eastgate Regional COG, along with the Ohio State University and three other Regional Development Districts. This planning team recognizes the need to be strategic about the current oil and gas boom, and will develop a plan which advances the growth or startup of small to medium manufacturing businesses that will support long term economic viability and community sustainability. The project will address how the region can take advantage of increasing tax revenues, short term employment opportunities, and workforce training to diversify and advance new manufacturing opportunities to foster long term sustainable benefits from the shale energy development.

Economic Development Resources

NARC Resources

  • NARC Economic Competitiveness Planning Report (April 2013): In partnership with the McKnight Foundation, the Metropolitan Council (Minneapolis, MN) and MZ Strategies, LLC, NARC released Planning for Regional Competitiveness: For Regional Economic Partners in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul Metropolitan Area. Thirty peer regions were surveyed, providing a status assessment of current regional economic competitiveness and equity planning efforts nationwide. The report also conducts a deeper analysis of three case study regions and proposes five recommendations to regional stakeholders in planning for economic competitiveness. A copy of the report is available HERE; a copy of the executive summary is available HERE.

Federal Resources

Department of Commerce

  • Economic Development Administration: The EDA provides grants to economically distressed communities to generate new employment, help retain existing jobs and stimulate industrial and commercial growth.
  • Minority Business Development Administration: MBDA promotes growth and competitiveness of the United States’ minority-owned businesses. It actively promotes the growth and competitiveness of minority-owned businesses by providing access to capital, access to contracts and access to market opportunities- both domestic and global. The main feature of the organization and its site is to provide business consulting services to minority business owners. 
  • International Trade Administration: ITA strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry, promotes trade and investment, and ensures fair trade through the rigorous enforcement of our trade laws and agreements. ITA works to improve the global business environment and helps U.S. organizations compete at home and abroad.

Small Business Administration

  • Small Business Administration: The goal of The Small Business Administration is to maintain and strengthen the nation’s economy by enabling the establishment and viability of small businesses and by assisting in the economic recovery of communities after disasters.

Federal Regional Commissions

Non-Profit Resources

  • Seedco: Seedco is a national non-profit organization that advances economic opportunity for people, businesses and communities in need. They design and implement innovative programs and services for workers, families and businesses. Seedco advances community economic development through workforce development, work and family supports, and employer and small business services.
  • International Economic Development Council: IEDC is an organization dedicated to helping economic developers do their job more effectively and raising the profile of the profession. Their members create more high-quality jobs, develop more vibrant communities, and generally improve the quality of life in their regions. From public to private, rural to urban, local to international, their members represent the entire range of economic development experience.
  • American Planning Association: APA is dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning—physical, economic and social—to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. This educational organization provides leadership in the development of vital communities and offers the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.  
  • Urban Institute: The Urban Institute builds knowledge about the nation’s social and fiscal challenges, practicing open-minded, evidence-based research to diagnose problems and figure out which policies and programs work best, for whom, and how. They foster sound public policy and effective government by gathering data, conducting research, and evaluating programs. 

Contact: Joanna Turner, joanna@narc.org. or 202-986-1032 x216.

Copyright © 2013 National Association of Regional Councils