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An Overview of the Economic Development Landscape

Author: Shari Nourick. 2020

In preparation for the IEDC 2020 Board Strategic Planning Retreat, the Board was provided with a comprehensive paper that explored the most prevalent issues impacting the profession in the current economic development landscape. While economic development professionals have been navigating in a complex and often capricious landscape since the turn of the 21st century, the COVID-19 pandemic further destabilized communities across the globe, creating unprecedented havoc and disruption. Practitioners need to understand the ongoing shifts and trends in the global economy so that they can better prepare their communities for the future. This research and thoughtful outlook document is beneficial for all members as they work to sustain competitive and resilient local economies.

Community Colleges’ Roles in Economic Diversification

This trio of papers was developed to explore the various ways that community colleges aid the economic diversification of their service areas. The papers were developed in partnership with the American Association of Community Colleges, with funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, to support economic diversification efforts in communities in Alabama, Kentucky and Tennessee that have been affected by the changes in the coal industry. Community colleges’ roles are organized into three themes:

Economic Diversification: How Community Colleges Prepare the Workforce,” addresses soft skills development, workforce development, entrepreneurship, and leadership development.

Economic Diversification: How Community Colleges Support Community Initiatives,” explores the role of community colleges in initiatives specifically designed to diversify the local economy. Topics include small business development, supporting the growth of new industries, tourism, downtown revitalization, asset mapping, and economic development training.

Economic Diversification: How Community Colleges Partner with Economic Development Organizations,” focuses on how to build strong and lasting collaborations between community colleges and EDOs. Topics explored include the necessity and benefits of such collaborations, opportunities for collaboration, recommended steps for building collaborative relationships, and examples of successful initiatives.

Green Metrics: Common Measures of Sustainable Economic Development

Authors: Eli Dile. 2017.

Performance metrics are a hallmark of any high-performing economic development organization, and this paper attempts to bring similar rigor to the concept of sustainable economic development. While some aspects of sustainability are intangible, many can, in fact, be quantified. With funding from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, IEDC reviewed the sustainability and economic development performance indicators used by 10 North American communities to identify a common set of sustainable economic development metrics. This report focuses primarily on metrics that communities of any size or budget can use. This data can help governments demonstrate impact and justify programs that promote the wellbeing of the business, social, natural, and built environments.

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What You Should Know 2.0: Elected Leaders and Economic Development

Effective economic development demands informed leadership from local elected leaders. What constitutes success in economic development and the specific strategies to accomplish it will undoubtedly look different from place to place. Yet despite these differences, leadership is consistently identified as a critical factor in advancing local economic development. Although leadership can come from many places within the community, local elected officials are particularly well positioned to take on this role. Published in 2017, check out this new free publication from the National League of Cities and IEDC and share it with your local leaders.

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Chutes and Ladders: The New Rules of the Game for Upskilling Workers

Authors: Emily Brown, Clark Welch and Behzad Taimur. 2016.

In the past, a college degree was the path to stability. But today, traditional models of education can't keep up. Those already in the workforce feel pressure from changing job requirements and are seeking ways to keep up. But even though there are a lot of trends that threaten job stability in this economy, there are also many ladders that can help workers adjust.

With funding from the ACT Foundation and the National Network of Business and Industry Associations, IEDC has produced “Chutes and Ladders: The New Rules of the Game for Upskilling Workers,” which offers a framework to build a culture of upskilling. This guide is the result of three trainings that were given in 2016, and feature activities which fit into a continuum that builds a working-learning ecosystem. This creates a ladder for workers to ascend to the next step of their career - and for companies to find the talent they need.

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Sustainable Economic Development in Practice

Survey economic developers on the definition of sustainable development and more than likely, there will be varying definitions. Recognizing the need for a definition, IEDC's Sustainability Advisory Committee publishes the Sustainable Economic Development in Practice briefing. This short paper discusses how to define sustainable development, the role of economic developers, and how to measure a project or program's impact on a community through a sustainable lens. Sustainable Economic Development in Practice highlights four best practices from North America and provides additional reading recommendations.

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Building the Foundation: EDOs and Philanthropies as Partners

Authors: Mishka Parkins and Wilson Kerr. 2016.

Foundations have long funded local solutions to uplift economically marginalized populations. More recently, however, philanthropic engagement has transformed from solely funding-based assistance to more strategic and comprehensive community development approaches. With funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, IEDC conducted a thorough assessment to better understand the current role of foundations in community development and the extent of the complementary interests between foundations and traditional EDOs. “Building the Foundation: EDOs and Philanthropies as Partners” presents these findings, offers best practice case studies, and provides some opportunities for collaboration.

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This report was made possible by a grant from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Creating the Clean Energy Economy

Authors: Jess Chen, Jennifer Todd, and Frankie Clogston. 2013.

IEDC is releasing new research on three nascent clean energy markets: electric vehicles, offshore wind energy and net-zero energy homes. These sectors include transformative technologies for the United States that have not been widely deployed, yet their job creation potential is great, alongside the environmental and other benefits they bring. Supported by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the report aims to help economic developers unlock the potential of these industries to grow local wealth, jobs and investment. "Creating the Clean Energy Economy" discusses the sectors’ economic development benefits in detail, hurdles to market development and strategies to help overcome these hurdles. Just as they have done in Oregon, Europe and elsewhere, economic developers can seize the opportunity to help these new sectors grow, and in the process, create jobs and investment in their communities.

» Download "Analysis of the Net Zero Energy Home Industry"
» Download "Analysis of the Offshore Wind Energy Industry"
» Download "Analysis of the Electric Vehicle Industry"
» Download executive summary

This report was made possible by a grant from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.

Understanding Renewable Energy Businesses: Aligning Renewable Energy Firms and Economic Developers: A Survey of Renewable Energy Companies

Authors: Liz Thorstensen, Jess Chen, and Emily Brown. 2013.

A year after IEDC's "Powering Up" report (see below), which provided a snapshot of what state economic developers see as the primary assets and effective policies for renewable energy growth, IEDC embarked on new renewable energy research that complements the study's findings and also offers valuable standalone insight on the wind, solar and biomass electricity sectors. IEDC interviewed representatives from solar and wind energy firms in 2012 to assess the opportunities and challenges facing these industries. IEDC also spoke one-on-one with experts in the biopower industry, which has been a consistent, significant source of renewable energy over the past few decades. For all three industries, the goals were to identify: local and state assets most important to company growth; the relative importance of local and regional policy tools; the top challenges to company growth; and the economic development programs most helpful to RE companies. These goals and the actual survey questions mirror those asked of economic developers in the "Powering Up" report. The similar format has enabled IEDC to compare and contrast firms' and economic developers' perspectives, thereby identifying both overlaps and gaps in understanding. The goal of the report is to help economic developers adjust their strategies to best support local renewable energy industries.

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This report was made possible by grants from the Energy Foundation, Wind Energy Foundation, and the Solar Foundation.

Powering Up: State Assets & Barriers to Renewable Energy Growth

Authors: Liz Thorstensen, Jess Chen, and Patrick McHugh. 2011.

As energy becomes an increasingly important national and global priority, there is a significant hunger on the part of the economic development community for useful information on how to effectively support the development of their renewable energy industry. Many states have proactively generated policies with the goal of launching a viable and ultimately competitive renewable energy industry. IEDC's new report employs primary and secondary research to provide a current snapshot of what states see as their assets for renewable energy development, and the policies they are using to strategically develop their renewable energy industry as both an end goal in itself and as a lever for wider economic development. The report also highlights strategies and best practices in funding mechanisms as well as supply chain issues faced in developing renewable energy sectors.

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This report was made possible by a grant from the Energy Foundation.

Leading from Within: Building Organizational Leadership Capacity

Author: David R. Kolzow, PhD. 2014.

The premise of this book is that despite all the attention to leadership development, nonprofit community and economic development organizations and government agencies could benefit from a more directed and structured program to develop effective leaders within and throughout their organization and thereby improve the quality of their operation. Studies have consistently demonstrated that organizations that prioritize leadership development are much more effective in meeting the expectations of their constituents, stakeholders, and customers. It has been said that the better the leadership, the better the organization is able collectively to ride the challenges of difficult times.

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The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development: 10 Things You Should Know

Authors: Christiana McFarland and Katie Seeger. 2010.

Economic developers will find this publication a valuable tool in building their relationships with their local elected officials. The guidebook outlines the “top 10 list” of things elected officials should know about economic development in order to be effective leaders. The publication is the result of a partnership between the National League of Cities Center for Research and Innovation and the International Economic Development Council.

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This report was the result of a partnership between the National League of Cities Center for Research and IEDC.

Getting Prepared: Economic Development in a Transforming Energy Economy

Authors: Liz Thorstensen and Shari Nourick (primary). Shari Garmise, PhD, Swati Ghosh, and Matthew Texler (contributing). 2010.

While the specifics of the transition to a low-carbon economy are still being debated both nationally and internationally, it appears likely that some type of cap and trade or carbon pricing will emerge. This report helps economic developers and those in related fields think about how they can position their economies to benefit from the transition.

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This report was made possible by a grant from The Energy Foundation.

Creating Quality Jobs: Transforming the Economic Development Landscape

Authors: Louise Anderson, Frankie Clogston, Dana Erekat, Shari Garmise, PhD, Swati Ghosh, Christopher Girdwood, Carrie Mulcaire, and Liz Thorstensen. 2010.

As the role of economic developers has expanded to include everything from technology transfer to attracting retail to expand a community's tax base, the profession must examine the types of jobs it is creating and how well they meet the needs of individuals and communities in a globalized, skill-based economy. This report identifies the role of economic developers in creating quality jobs and improving the quality of existing jobs.

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This report was made possible by a grant from The Ford Foundation.

Climate Prosperity Handbook and Getting Started Guide

Authors: Shari Garmise, PhD, Phillip Singerman, PhD, and Elizabeth Thorstenson. 2009.

The Climate Prosperity Handbook, authored by the International Economic Development Council, serves as a guide to informing communities of the economic benefits of proactively pursuing sustainable development and climate action strategies.

The handbook demonstrates the utility of adopting the three-part agenda of the Climate Prosperity Project Green Savings/ Green Opportunities/ Green Talent. The principal message is that rather than climate action being costly and harmful to the economy, it creates wide ranging savings and benefits by: spending less on energy through increased conservation and efficiency; generating significant new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities; expanding renewable energy production and distribution, and offering a wide range of new products, production processes, goods and services, and new technologies.

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Report sponsors and partners: American Electric Power, B& D Consulting, Dow Corning Corporation, Environmental Defense Fund, Global Urban Development, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Saginaw Future Inc.

Economic Development and Smart Growth

Editors: Alex Iams and Pearl Kaplan. 2006.

IEDC published Economic Development and Smart Growth through a grant from the U.S. EPA in 2006. The publication outlines eight case study communities that implemented projects that incorporate smart growth principles and have also experienced economic development success in the form of increased tax revenue, more jobs, higher income levels, downtown revitalization, business growth and other economic indicators.

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This report was developed under a cooperative agreement between IEDC and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

Business Improvement Districts: Self-Help Downtown

Author: Lawrence O. Houstoun, Jr., AICP. Compilation of Articles: 1988-2011.

This publication is intended to provide a broad look into the world of Business Improvement District's (BIDs) through the eyes of one of the industry's thought leaders and author, Lawrence Houstoun, Jr., AICP.

BIDs can be an effective way of creating and maintaining services and capital improvement in cities and towns, large and small. With articles ranging from working with local government, to incorporating the arts into your downtown, this publication profiles the success stories, as well as the challenges involved in creating BIDs.

While stressing that no two BIDs are exactly alike, Mr. Houstoun highlights best practices from around the world as examples of what is possible when businesses come together to fund improvements. The articles in this publication illustrate that while there is not one template to create BID services, there are commonalities in approaches.

The International Economic Development Council would like to recognize the following partners, for their support of this publication:

• American Planning Association (APA)
• Downtown DC BID, Washington, DC
• Downtown Idea Exchange
• International City/County Management Association (ICMA)
• International Downtown Association (IDA)
• Taylor & Francis, publisher of Local Economy
• Urban Land Institute (ULI)

» IEDC Member download


Free Download for Members / Available for Purchase by Non-Members

2020 Board of Directors Strategic Planning Retreat White Paper

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A Behavioral Leadership Model for Top Performing Economic Development Executives

This study identifies a behavioral model for top performing economic development CEOs and validates an assessment protocol that directly correlates to performance. The study created a behavior style model for top performing economic development CEOs expressed in terms of their orientation to five key leadership factors: strategy, implementation, process, information, and relationships. The model provides a profile that will aid executives in designing their professional development programs and offers organizations another key measurement to assess CEO candidates during the hiring process.

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An Overview of the Current Economic Development Landscape

Shari Nourick.  2014.

In preparation for the IEDC Board Strategic Planning Retreat held in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 31st, 2014, the Board was provided with a comprehensive paper that explores the most prevalent issues impacting the economic development profession in the current economic development landscape. We believe that this research and thoughtful outlook document will be useful to all members.

» Member download
» Purchase in the bookstore

Executive and Professional Competencies for Economic Developers

Prepared by Colarelli, Meyer & Associates (CMA). 2012.

This guide is designed to help individuals and organizations understand the core competencies necessary for success in economic development. It lays out a set of guidelines, or competencies, for economic development organizations to follow when evaluating their current employees and recruiting new employees. These are enumerated into two models that clearly define the common individual leadership competencies of 1) high performing executives and 2) high performing professional economic development staff. Intelligence gathered as part of this competency evaluation process can set the pathways for professional and leadership development, now and in the future.

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Funded by: The International Economic Development Council

Creating Internship and Cooperative Education Student Programs: A Guide for Economic Development Organizations

Author: Gary L. Skoog, CEcD. 2011.

This guide is meant to assist economic development professionals in their quest to hire an intern or cooperative education student (co-op). Gary Skoog, the primary author, and members of IEDC's Higher Education Advisory Committee hope that this guide will help economic development organizations better utilize interns and introduce new talent to the economic development profession.

» IEDC Member download
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