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 California 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)!

Winter 2020 Class Cohort:

  • Andy Haussler, Community & Economic Development Director, City of Clovis — “Achieving the ACE credential in 2020 is very timely as our local communities critically need leadership on a wide range of economic development challenges, thank you CALED for providing this level of training for such a time as this.”
  • Gina M. Gonzalez, M-URP, Economic Development Director, City of Menifee — “The ACE program fulfills a need for California Economic Developers by providing a respected avenue for assessing a high level of knowledge, skills and proficiency in Economic Development- which is expected  to carry over into the communities they serve.”
  • Kayla Charters, Economic Development Analyst, City of Menifee
  • Laura Cole-Rowe, Membership & Event Coordinator, CALED — “I highly recommend CALED’s ACE Certification Program for anyone who is involved in economic development – the classes are very informative and the tools available in the program are very useful.”
  • Michelle Stephens, Program Director, CALED — “The ACE certification was a great opportunity to enhance my economic development knowledge and training while connecting with other experienced economic development practitioners. It is a great way to take the profession to the next level.”
  • Nancee Robles, Executive Director, California Pollution Control Financing Authority — “I am proud of earning my ACE Certification and will use what I’ve learned to advance the economic development of our State to help improve the well-being and quality of life for Californians.”
  • Nicole Hinkle, Sr. Economic Development Specialist, County of Placer — “CALED prepares students to carry out an array of Economic Development skills. The ACE program taught me what I was looking to learn, was well-organized, and well-paced.”
  • Patrick Martinez, Director of Development Services, City of Needles — “The ACE program not only brought together industry leaders to share their institutional knowledge with us but also facilitated an environment to grow with a cohort of my peers creating life-long professional relationships.”
  • Randy Saffold, CRSS, Sr. Management Analyst, City of Manteca — “The ACE Certification coursework  is delivered by experienced professionals in an incredibly accepting and loving environment, both in-person or online, and I am happy to be counted in the second cohort of ACE certified economic development professionals.”
  • Tara Schiff, Economic Development Specialist, County of Mariposa — “With more than 30 years in business development and 7 years in economic development with the County of Mariposa, I am grateful for the ACE program to solidify my position as a California economic development professional.”

Spring 2020 Class Cohort:

  • Chris Constantin, MPA, CIA, CFE, CLS, CECFE, City Manager, City of San Dimas —  “California is best served by advanced economic developers with broad expertise and an ACE certification.”
  • Dwayne Dalman, Economic Development Division Manager, City of Fairfield — “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.]