A sound economic development plan is built on a shared understanding of market conditions and critical assets that will shape local and regional economic development opportunities. This shared understanding ensures that stakeholders agree on the critical economic development issues and opportunities facing the community or region. This understanding encompasses the community’s or region’s role in the broader economy, how the community or region can capitalize on these key opportunities, and critical challenges.
The economic development process involves both strengthening economic assets and building effective linkages among key economic institutions and businesses. While physical, human, financial and technological resources are the foundation for economic development, what differentiates the most successful regions is the ability to build effective relationships and networks across key institutions and business sectors to make on-going investments in key assets and connect them to business creation and growth.
Effective strategies target export-oriented sectors with the potential for a sustainable competitive advantage. Since export-oriented businesses sell goods and services to customers outside of the region, they bring income into a region and are the primary economic engines. Within the export sectors, economic development efforts will build on business clusters that have the strongest growth potential and are closely allied with local competitive advantages.
Local place-making and amenities are integral to economic development. Quality of place is an asset of growing importance for economic development. With attracting talent and skilled workers vital to firm growth (to local and regional economic success), making a city, neighborhood and region a desirable place to live is part of the economic development agenda. Consequently, economic development strategies need to address and align with initiatives to create attractive and vibrant places.
Economic development goals extend beyond job creation to fostering good quality jobs and fostering economic well-being to all segments of society. A community or region’s economic development potential and quality of life is enhanced when all areas and populations share in the benefits of economic development and these benefits include quality jobs and the potential for wealth and asset accumulation. The growing inequality in income and wealth and lack of growth in wages and middle-income jobs requires creating intentional and innovative strategies to ensure full participation in economic growth and outcomes that benefit historically excluded populations and communities.
Implementation is central to economic development plans. An Economic Development Plan is valuable only to the extent it is actually implemented. An effective plan must anticipate and address the capacity and resources to implement recommendations from the start and provide a detailed and realistic implementation roadmap.
Steering Committee creation to oversee the study with representation of the full range of economic institutions and actors, including business, government, key institutions (e.g., universities and financial institutions) and community organizations. This committee provides the foundation for building a shared understanding and vision to guide planning and create the commitment to implement plans.
Demographic and economic analysis identifies key demographic and economic trends shaping the community or region, assesses economic performance to identify strengths and potential problems, and analyzes the economic structure of the regional economy to define the major industries and clusters that serve as “engines” of regional growth and sources for regional competitive advantage.
Asset and resource assessment identifies the major economic assets and resources that provide the foundation and competitive advantages to support and capture economic clusters and development opportunities. This resource assessment addresses six critical areas:
1. Natural resources and amenities
2. Physical capital (real estate and infrastructure systems)
3. Financial capital;
4. Human capital (the labor force and education and training systems);
5. Technology assets and their deployment
6. Economic development capacity.
After identifying key assets, this analysis addresses how well these assets serve current and future business and development needs, especially in major regional industries and clusters, and defines critical gaps in and barriers to utilizing key resources and deploying them to achieve equitable outcomes. From this analysis, specific investments, actions and initiatives can be designs to strengthen resources, build more effective linkages between businesses and key resource institutions and ensure inclusive and equitable development results.
Industry and cluster analysis provides an in-depth understanding of the composition, competitive issues and resource needs of critical industries and business clusters in a region, drawing upon data analysis, surveys, focus groups, interviews and trade literature reviews. Results include a richer understanding of the inter-relationships within and shared resources supporting key clusters, gaps in institutional relationships and special resources needed to enhance the cluster’s growth and competitiveness, and specific policies, investments and initiatives to enhance clusters and their development impact.
Benchmarking analysis compares important aspects of local or regional resources and economic outcomes to key competing areas to help identify competitive strengths and weaknesses.
Consensus among key stakeholders on economic development goals and priorities, key strategies to pursue and detailed action plans and resource commitments.
A stronger understanding of the local and regional economy, including critical development opportunities, major competitive advantages and weaknesses, to build broader public support for economic development initiatives.
Well-defined strategies that build on regional competitive advantages and capitalize on critical opportunities and drive inclusive economic outcomes.
Specific recommendations within each strategy regarding new investments and activities, improvements to existing efforts, actions to extend benefits to all segments of the community and strengthening relationships and partnerships across key sectors.
Detailed action plans to guide implementation of economic development plans addressing important obstacles and liabilities that prevent realization of opportunities, and benchmark progress over time to promote strategy adaptation.
Learn more about our Economic Development Planning Experience