Career Development

What Does an Economic Developer Do?

Find out what an Economic Developer does, how to get this job, salary information, and what it takes to succeed as an Economic Developer.

The role of an Economic Developer encompasses the strategic planning and implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the economic well-being and growth of a community, region, or organization. Through a blend of attracting new businesses, supporting the expansion of existing businesses, and fostering a conducive environment for entrepreneurship, this position seeks to create job opportunities, stimulate economic activity, and improve the quality of life for the community. Collaboration with various stakeholders, including government entities, private sector partners, and community organizations, is a fundamental aspect of this job, ensuring that economic development efforts are aligned with the broader goals and needs of the community. The Economic Developer serves as a facilitator, bringing together resources, ideas, and opportunities to drive sustainable economic progress.

Economic Developer Job Duties

  • Develop and implement strategies for attracting new businesses and retaining existing ones within a community or region, including identifying target industries and creating marketing materials.
  • Facilitate the process of site selection for businesses looking to relocate or expand, including providing information on available properties, zoning regulations, and incentives.
  • Coordinate with local, state, and federal government agencies to secure funding and incentives for economic development projects, including grants, tax credits, and infrastructure improvements.
  • Engage with community stakeholders, including local businesses, non-profit organizations, and educational institutions, to gather input on economic development plans and initiatives.
  • Analyze economic data and trends to inform decision-making and strategy development, including employment statistics, industry growth patterns, and demographic changes.
  • Organize and lead workshops, seminars, and other educational events aimed at providing businesses with the tools and knowledge necessary for growth and success.
  • Advocate for policy changes at the local, state, and federal levels that support economic development goals, including infrastructure investments, regulatory reforms, and workforce development programs.
  • Oversee the management of economic development projects, ensuring they are completed on time, within budget, and achieve the desired outcomes, including monitoring progress and adjusting strategies as necessary.

Economic Developer Salary & Outlook

Factors influencing an Economic Developer’s salary include years of experience, the size and economic health of the community they serve, specific skills such as grant writing and project management, and their success in previous roles in terms of measurable economic growth or development projects completed. Industry-specific knowledge can also impact earnings.

  • Median Annual Salary: $89,250 ($42.91/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $152,000 ($73.08/hour)

The employment of economic developers is expected to grow faster than average over the next decade.

This growth is driven by the increasing need for regions to attract investments, enhance job creation, and stimulate economic growth post-pandemic. Economic Developers play a crucial role in crafting strategies for sustainable development, securing funding, and fostering business environments conducive to innovation and expansion, making their expertise more sought-after than ever.

Economic Developer Job Requirements

Education: Economic developers often pursue higher education, with a significant emphasis on doctoral and master’s degrees. Majors in economics, business administration, public administration, or urban planning are highly relevant. Coursework typically includes economics, statistics, finance, policy analysis, and community development. A strong academic foundation in these areas equips candidates with the analytical and strategic planning skills necessary for fostering economic growth and development within communities.

Experience: Economic developers often enter the field without prior experience, learning through on-the-job training and specialized training programs. They typically gain expertise in areas like community development, project management, and financial analysis. Hands-on experience in negotiating, strategic planning, and stakeholder engagement is crucial. Continuous professional development through workshops and seminars helps them stay updated on economic trends and development strategies, enhancing their ability to foster economic growth and community revitalization.

Certifications & Licenses: Certifications such as the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) are often beneficial for economic developers. While not always required, holding such certifications can enhance professional credibility and career prospects. No specific licenses are typically required for the role of an economic developer.

Economic Developer Skills

Market Analysis: Identifying trends, demographics, and economic conditions is crucial for pinpointing growth areas and investment opportunities. Economic developers use this insight to devise strategic plans that attract businesses, boost job creation, and promote sustainable development.

Public-Private Partnerships: Forming successful collaborations between government and the private sector, these partnerships are instrumental in driving local economic growth and job creation. Skills in negotiation, aligning goals, and navigating regulatory landscapes are necessary to realize transformative projects.

Grant Writing: Developing compelling proposals to secure funding is a pivotal skill for advancing economic development initiatives. It involves a thorough understanding of project management and the ability to clearly articulate the economic impact and benefits of projects to potential funders.

Economic Impact Assessment: Forecasting the effects of development projects on local economies is key to predicting job creation, tax revenue, and overall growth. This requires analyzing quantitative data and presenting findings in an accessible way, supporting informed decision-making in urban and regional planning.

Land Use Planning: Implementing strategies that optimize land use for sustainable growth and community benefit involves balancing development needs with environmental and social considerations. Economic developers craft zoning laws and policies that support economic prosperity and quality of life.

Workforce Development: Enhancing the local workforce’s skills and competencies is directly linked to economic growth and sustainability. By identifying current labor market gaps and anticipating future industry needs, economic developers facilitate training programs, connecting educational institutions, businesses, and job seekers.

Economic Developer Work Environment

Economic developers often find themselves in a dynamic work environment that blends traditional office settings with the fieldwork necessary for community engagement and project evaluation. Their workspace is typically equipped with the latest technology, including computers with specialized software for data analysis and project management tools, facilitating efficient workflow and collaboration.

Work hours can extend beyond the typical nine-to-five, especially when attending community events or meetings with stakeholders, which underscores the need for flexibility. The dress code varies, leaning towards business casual in the office and adapting as necessary for external engagements.

The culture within this profession emphasizes continuous learning and adaptation, as economic trends and development strategies evolve. Interaction with a diverse range of individuals, from government officials to local business owners, is a staple, making interpersonal skills invaluable. Travel is often required, not just locally but sometimes internationally, depending on the scope of the development projects.

Despite the demands, there’s a strong emphasis on work-life balance, with many organizations offering support for professional development to ensure their teams remain at the forefront of economic development strategies.

Advancement Prospects

Economic Developers can ascend to higher roles such as Director of Economic Development or Chief Economic Officer by demonstrating impactful growth strategies and successful project implementations. Mastery in attracting investments, fostering business expansions, and enhancing workforce development within communities is crucial.

Gaining experience in public-private partnership management elevates prospects, as does specialization in sustainable development practices or technology-driven economic planning. These niches meet the evolving demands of modern economies.

Leadership in regional or national economic development organizations showcases an individual’s broader impact and strategic vision, positioning them for top-tier roles. Success in these areas often requires a deep understanding of economic policy, market trends, and the ability to engage with diverse stakeholders.


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