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What is Economic Development?
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What is Economic Development?

Economic development is something that every community wants but few people understand.  It is more than just headlines about new jobs and investments.  It is more than just a new company that requires a shell building and a natural gas pipeline.  In fact, economic development is a term that encompasses many concepts.

At its core, economic development is about activities that foster a better quality of life for citizens of a community. This can mean economic security through new jobs, recreation and education opportunities at tourist attractions, new tax revenues for governments to support needed services, enhanced skills for workers to increase their competitiveness, revitalization of blighted areas, or even new shopping opportunities for eager consumers.

Traditionally, most of the attention in economic development has been paid to new industry attraction, bringing new dollars and new revenues to an area in a very visible way. Increasingly economic development can take many forms based on the community and their assets. Continuing contributions made by small companies and existing industry serve as the base of a locality’s economy.

Issues such as transportation, education, and local land use all play a role.  Bankers, chambers of commerce, and other industrial partners are also involved.  International trade is an increasingly large part of the economy, and international companies have their own unique issues to be addressed. 

Economic development takes a lot of work by a lot of people.  No single person closes a deal.  Instead, putting together an economic development project is much like conducting a symphony orchestra.  There may be just one person leading the group, but there are many components and each has an important piece of the deal.  If one piece is missing, the deal can crumble.

Economic development has evolved into a professional industry of highly specialized practitioners. Economic development practitioners provide leadership in policy-making and they administer policy, programs, and projects. Economic development practitioners work at the local, regional, and state levels and seek new economic opportunities for their communities, while working to retain their existing businesses. There are numerous other organizations whose primary function is not economic development that work in partnership with economic developers, such as foundations, utilities, education, colleges and universities. The practice of economic development is changing as communities adapt to their changing needs.


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