Economic Development Focus Areas

1 Economic Development Focus Areas

Strategic planning is a crucial process that entails setting long-term goals, identifying priorities, and creating action plans to achieve economic development objectives. This involves conducting a SWOT analysis to assess a city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, taking into account factors like infrastructure, workforce, industries, and competitive advantages. Key strategies for economic development encompass business attraction and retention, workforce development, infrastructure investment, and cultural development.



  1. Explore different strategies used by cities for economic development
  2. Understand the importance of strategic planning in economic development
  3. Analyze case studies to learn from successful city economic development initiatives



Key Takeaway:

  • Strategic planning involves setting long-term goals, identifying key priorities, and developing action plans to achieve economic development objectives.
  • It includes assessing a city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT analysis), and considering factors such as infrastructure, workforce, industries, and competitive advantages.

Strategic Planning for Economic Development

Strategic planning is a crucial process that encompasses a series of steps aimed at ensuring the long-term success of economic development objectives. It begins with the establishment of clear and ambitious goals, which serve as a roadmap for guiding future actions. By identifying these objectives, stakeholders can focus their efforts on the most important areas, directing resources and initiatives towards achieving sustainable growth.

To effectively implement a strategic plan, a comprehensive understanding of the current state of affairs is essential. This involves conducting a thorough analysis of the city’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, commonly referred to as a SWOT analysis. By evaluating these factors, decision-makers can gain valuable insights into the city’s competitive position and determine areas where improvement is needed.

Here is an example of SWOT analysis Foster City, CA which was based on the findings from Focus Groups and Stakeholder Interviews

Infrastructure plays a pivotal role in economic development, as it forms the backbone of any thriving city. Evaluating existing infrastructure assets, such as transportation systems, utilities, and communication networks, helps identify areas for enhancement or expansion. By investing in infrastructure development, cities can attract new businesses, facilitate the growth of existing industries, and improve the overall quality of life for residents.

Additionally, the workforce and industries within a city are key components of strategic planning. Assessing the skill sets and capabilities of the local workforce can guide decisions related to training programs, education initiatives, and talent attraction strategies. Furthermore, understanding the industries that are already present in the city enables stakeholders to identify areas of specialization and competitive advantages. This knowledge can help foster the growth of these industries and explore new opportunities for diversification and innovation.


Key Focus Areas for City Economic Development

Business Attraction and Retention

Attracting new businesses and industries to the city while retaining existing ones through incentives/subsidies, streamlined permitting processes, and business-friendly policies.

Cities and states give out billions of dollars to attract corporations.  For example, the video below talks about the potential incentives that Georgia offered to attract Amazon’s new headquarters.  

Incentives and corporate subsides are debated.  Some feel they are necessary to attract new business while others say billion dollar companies have plenty of money.  The money given to corporations is publicly funded which means there is less money for public projects like infrastructure, public transit, parks, etc.  

Entrepreneurship and Innovation

Encouraging the development of startups and fostering an ecosystem that supports entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology transfer.

There are many ways that cities can promote startups. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Create a supportive environment: Cities can create a supportive environment for startups by providing tax breaks, grants, and other incentives. This can help startups to get started and grow. Cities can also make it easier for startups to operate by streamlining regulations and providing access to infrastructure.
  • Connect startups with resources: Cities can connect startups with resources by providing access to mentors, investors, and other experts. This can help startups to get the advice and support they need to succeed. Cities can also host events and meetups where startups can network with each other and with potential customers and partners.
  • Promote the city as a startup hub: Cities can promote the city as a startup hub by marketing the city’s strengths to potential entrepreneurs. This can include highlighting the city’s talent pool, access to capital, and supportive environment. Cities can also partner with universities and other organizations to host startup competitions and events.

Workforce Development

Collaborating with educational institutions and workforce training programs to develop a skilled workforce that meets the needs of local businesses and industries.

There are many ways that cities can promote workforce development. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Investing in education and training: Cities can invest in public education and training programs to ensure that residents have the skills they need to succeed in the workforce. This can include providing funding for early childhood education, K-12 schools, and post-secondary education. Cities can also partner with businesses to create apprenticeship programs and other training opportunities.
  • Connecting workers with jobs: Cities can connect workers with jobs by providing job search assistance, career counseling, and other services. This can help workers to find jobs that match their skills and interests. Cities can also work with employers to create jobs that meet the needs of the local workforce.
  • Promoting diversity and inclusion: Cities can promote diversity and inclusion in the workforce by providing training on unconscious bias, creating mentorship programs, and supporting diversity-focused organizations. This can help to create a more inclusive environment for all workers.

Infrastructure Investment

Investing in transportation, utilities, broadband, and other critical infrastructure to support economic activities and attract investments.

There are many ways that cities can invest in infrastructure. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Raising taxes: Cities can raise taxes to generate revenue for infrastructure investments. This can include raising property taxes, sales taxes, or income taxes.
  • Issuing bonds: Cities can issue bonds to raise money for infrastructure investments. Bonds are essentially loans that the city must repay over time with interest.
  • Using public-private partnerships: Cities can partner with private companies to finance and build infrastructure projects. This can help to reduce the cost of infrastructure projects and speed up the construction process.
  • Reducing spending on other priorities: Cities can reduce spending on other priorities, such as social programs or parks and recreation, to free up money for infrastructure investments.


Tourism and Cultural Development

Promoting tourism, cultural events, and attractions to generate economic activity and enhance the city’s image.

Cities can invest in tourism and cultural development in a number of ways. Some of the most common methods include:

  • Investing in cultural attractions: Cities can invest in museums, theaters, art galleries, and other cultural attractions. This can help to attract visitors and create jobs in the tourism industry.
  • Promoting the city’s cultural scene: Cities can promote their cultural scene through marketing campaigns, social media, and other channels. This can help to raise awareness of the city’s attractions and attract visitors.
  • Making it easy for visitors to get around: Cities can make it easy for visitors to get around by investing in public transportation, bike lanes, and walking paths. This can help to make the city more accessible and enjoyable for visitors.
  • Creating a welcoming environment: Cities can create a welcoming environment for visitors by providing information about the city, offering discounts and deals, and making it easy to find things to do. This can help to ensure that visitors have a positive experience and want to come back again.
  • Partnering with businesses: Cities can partner with businesses to promote tourism and cultural development. This can include offering tax breaks, grants, and other incentives to businesses that invest in tourism or cultural projects.
  • Creating a festival or event: Cities can host festivals or events to attract visitors and promote the city’s culture. This can include music festivals, food festivals, art festivals, and other events.


Five Facts About  Economic Development Focus Areas:

  • ✅ Economic development in cities can be achieved through various strategies such as attracting new businesses, retaining existing businesses, and investing in infrastructure.
  • ✅ Economic development in cities can lead to job creation, increased tax revenue, and improved quality of life for residents.
  • ✅ Cities with more diverse economies tend to be more resilient to economic downturns.
  • ✅ In 2019, the top 5 industries in terms of employment in US cities were healthcare, retail, education, accommodation and food services, and professional and business services.
  • ✅ In 2019, the top 5 industries in terms of GDP in US cities were finance and insurance, real estate, professional and business services, healthcare, and manufacturing.

FAQs about Economic Development Focus Areas?

What are the different types of economic development strategies?

Economic development strategies refer to various approaches that cities use to promote economic growth and development. These strategies can be broadly categorized into four types: business attraction, business retention and expansion, entrepreneurship, and workforce development.

How does economic development affect the community?

Economic development has a significant impact on the community. It can create job opportunities, increase income levels, and improve the overall quality of life for residents. When businesses invest in a city, they bring in new jobs and revenue streams, which can lead to a boost in the local economy. This, in turn, can lead to increased tax revenues for the city, which can be used to fund public services and infrastructure projects that benefit the community as a whole. 




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