What’s it like to work in economic development?
Economic development professionals serve local, regional, state and provincial government agencies as well as several public/private entities. The primary roles and responsibilities of the economic developer are about improving the economic well-being of a particular geographic area.
Definition of Economic Development
Many people will refer to economic development as “the creation of new jobs and capital investment,” and that’s fine, but it’s much more than that. We provide a more descriptive version in our glossary here.
The role of the economic development professional often includes the following types of activities:
- marketing the community, the region, or the state as a place for business
- recruiting new businesses – business attraction
- encouraging investment – business expansion
- supporting existing businesses – business retention
- improving worker skills – workforce development
- increasing employment opportunities
- facilitating business and trade
- promoting the community’s leisure and tourist attractions
- conducting research
- assessing the community’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT)
- supporting small business development
- negotiating incentives
- leading community development
- communicating the community’s value proposition
Leadership in Economic Development
Economic development officials take leadership roles in the strategic planning process. For instance, the strategic planning process may require the economic developer to engage several stakeholders in the preparation of a plan. This process includes conducting a SWOT analysis, setting a vision and mission statement, establishing short and long term goals and objectives, creating a marketing plan, and managing resources to implement the plan.
Economic development managers work in professional offices utilizing modern computer equipment, customer relationship management (CRM) software and mobile devices. While many economic development managers work full time in an office, it is common for managers to travel extensively to meet with partner agencies, visit prospective business and industry, attend trade shows and conferences, and visit with top management of existing businesses and manufacturing operations. Upper-level management positions demand hours beyond a normal 8-hour workday.
The roles and responsibilities among economic developers vary from one position to the next, so it is always good to hear from those who are working in the field of economic development. Larry Lombardi, Economic Development Director for Currituck County, North Carolina has provided a glimpse into his role as he publicly shared his not-so-secret Big Secret of the Economic Development Profession. Enjoy!