Accredited California Economic Developer (ACE) Program

Certification Program for California Economic Developers                                                           

The Accredited California Economic Developer (ACE) program is a certification program offered through a partnership between the California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) and the California Academy for Economic Development.

The ACE program prepares participants to effectively create, manage and implement economic development programs in California’s unique environment. At the end of successful completion of all program requirements, the participant will earn ACE certification which can help set them apart in their field.

Standard Requirements for ACE Certification:

Successful completion of the ACE Exam requires comprehensive knowledge of economic development through work experience as well as the content covered in the Keys Course and the Advanced Institute. The format of the exam is a case study which includes a written report (e.g. staff report or memo) and presentation to be prepared by the candidate on a specific economic development scenario. The ACE candidate will be given between two and three weeks to prepare the report and PowerPoint presentation detailing how they plan to approach and resolve the scenario. The candidate will present this material to panelists on the scheduled exam appointment date via an online platform. An important part of the exam includes an interactive period where the panelists will request further detail and/or question the candidate’s approach which the candidate will need to defend.

Please view the Pathways to ACE Certification to see related fees and how one can become accredited via the Standard Pathway (Keys Course and the Advanced Institute) or through special circumstances which include a Keys Course Waiver, waiver of certain Advanced Institute courses, or for those with CEcD accreditation.  

Click here to view the various Pathways to ACE Certification

Contact Helen Schaubmayer at for questions and to get your name on our contact list.


Congratulations to the Inaugural Class of ACEs!

In order to be ACE-certified, students must meet successful completion of all program requirements including the Introduction to Economic Development Certificate Program (also known as the “Keys” course), the Advanced Institute for Economic Development (Advanced Institute), passing the ACE Exam, and direct work experience.

Congratulations to those who successfully completed all requirements and are now Accredited California Economic Developers (ACEs)!

Spring 2020 Class Cohort:

  • Chris Constantin, MPA, CIA, CFE, CLS, CECFE, Assistant City Manager, City of Chico —  “California is best served by advanced economic developers with broad expertise and an ACE certification.”
  • Dwayne Dalman, Economic Development Manager, City of Oakley — “Even though I have worked in the field of Economic Development for almost 20 years, I was very interested in being an Accredited California Economic Developer and was excited to be part of the first class.”
  • PJ Gagajena, Assistant City Manager, City of Moorpark — “I recommend the ACE Certification for new and seasoned economic developers. It provided me a critical foundation in understanding economic development. I’m honored to be part of the inaugural class. Thank you CALED!”
  • Kathy Gallino, Director, Calaveras County Economic & Community Development — “Being a part of CALED’s ACE Certification inaugural class really validated my years of experience and knowledge in the Economic & Community Development field. I met some truly amazing people that I can call colleagues and friends. Thank you for this professional growth opportunity.”
  • Michelle Geller, Economic Development Manager, City of Oceanside — “Working toward the ACE certification was a great experience; thanks, CALED for making this program happen!”
  • Kevin Ham, CEcD, HLM, Director of Economic Development, City of Vista — “The ACE program fills a need for California economic development professionals by providing them with an educational foundation and then assessing their skills to make sure that they have a high level of proficiency for the communities they work for and the businesses they serve.”
  • Wayne Olson, Senior Development Analyst, City of Palm Desert — “I have worked in and around economic development since 1997. I am currently employed as a Senior Analyst with the City of Palm Desert where I am responsible for working with developer partners in structuring and managing strategic initiatives, including P3 projects.”
  • Jason Ridenour, Economic Development & Housing Manager, City of Porterville — “The ACE certification program was informative and provided insight into the varied aspects and tools available for economic development in California.”
  • Tamra Spade, President/CEO, Tracy Chamber of Commerce — “Grateful for CALED providing the necessary educational classes to obtain my ACE certification. I have learned so much and continue to use my training to help in all aspects of economic development.”
  • Michael Washam, Associate Director, Economic Development and Planning Resource Management Agency, County of Tulare — “I have expertise in commercial real estate, business finance, CEQA requirements, land use and planning regulations specializing in rural development within the renewable energy, agricultural, industrial, healthcare and retail sectors.”
  • Curtis Williamson, Business Development Specialist, Fresno County Economic Development Corporation — “Spearheading the growth and retention of businesses in Fresno County for the past two and a half years.”


CALED CEO Gurbax Sahota Awarded Honorary ACE Designation

The Board of Regents for The California Academy for Economic  Development (The Academy) awarded Gurbax Sahota, President and CEO of the California Association for Local Economic Development (CALED) an Honorary Accredited California Economic Developer (ACE) designation for her statewide leadership in economic development policy and programs. Past Academy Regents Chair Bruce Kern noted that this award acknowledges Ms. Sahota for her tireless efforts to support CALED members and ensure that they have the educational and training resources they need to be effective in their communities.  [Read the full announcement here.]