Frequently Asked Questions About Economic Development

Economic Development is the creation of wealth from which community benefits are realized. It is more than a jobs program, it’s an investment in growing your economy and enhancing the prosperity and quality of life for all residents.

Economic development means different things to different people. On a broad scale, anything a community does to foster and create a healthy economy can fall under the auspice of economic development. Today’s economic development professionals are trying harder than ever to define their field in terms that are more concrete and salient to policymakers, the public, and other professionals. There are probably as many definitions for economic development as there are people who practice it.

From a public perspective, local economic development involves the allocation of limited resources – land, labor, capitol and entrepreneurship in a way that has a positive effect on the level of business activity, employment, income distribution patterns, and fiscal solvency.

To say that economic development is valuable because it brings revenue to communities does not do this profession justice. At its heart, economic development is about building healthy economies in order to have healthy communities.

These are just a few of the ways in which economic development helps communities:

  • Increased Tax Base…the additional revenue provided by economic development supports, maintains, and improves local infrastructure, such as roads, parks, libraries, and emergency medical services.
  • Job Development…economic development provides better wages, benefits, and opportunities for advancement.
  • Business Retention…businesses feel appreciated by the community and, in turn, are more likely to stay in town, contributing to the economy.
  • Economic Diversification…a diversified economic base helps expand the local economy and reduces a community’s vulnerability to a single business sector.
  • Self-sufficiency…a stronger economic base means public services are less dependent on intergovernmental influences and alliances, which can change with each election.
  • Productive Use of Property…property used for its “highest and best use” maximizes the value of that property.
  • Quality of Life…more local tax dollars and jobs raise the economic tide for the entire community, including the overall standard of living of the residents.
  • Recognition of Local Products…successful economic development often occurs when locally produced goods are consumed in the local market to a greater degree.

The California Association of Local Economic Development has over 750 members who work hard to help businesses thrive in their communities. These professionals work for cities, counties, non-profit economic development organizations, regional marketing groups, private-sector companies, and other public agencies. Contact CALED to get a membership list.

Over the past several years, people have used the number jobs created as a measure of economic development success. While jobs are a byproduct of a successful economic development program, they are not the sole measure of success. A good economic development program contributes much more than jobs to a community.

Economic developers are a catalyst. They are politically astute strategists who establish relationships, build networks, and generate resources to meet the needs of businesses. Their goal is to increase economic viability in their community.

The role of today’s economic developer evolves continuously. An economic developer is responsible for planning, designing, and implementing economic development strategies, as well as acting as a key liaison between public and private sectors and the community.

Economic developers are also instrumental in helping to leverage finances from both the public and private sectors–funding that is critical to help communities attract new businesses, facilitate enterprise development, and assist existing business with expansion and troubleshooting.

CALED is the premier statewide professional economic development organization dedicated to advancing its members’ ability to achieve excellence in delivering economic development services to their communities and business clients. CALED’s membership consists of public and private organizations and individuals involved in economic development: the business of creating and retaining jobs.

Because every business locates in a city or county, and it’s those local-level Economic Development professionals who assist these businesses and help them thrive; thereby, creating jobs and revenues for the communities they serve.