Understanding Economic Development 4: Functional & Practice Areas

The practice of economic development can be complex, but one way to understand it is in terms of functional areas and practice areas:

  • Functional Areas – these are similar to functional areas in business (e.g., management, operations, marketing, accounting, finance, human resources), in which different functions within a business are performed and controlled by different parts of the business. In Economic Development, there are four key functional areas: Sales & Marketing, Resource Assistance, Ecosystem Development, and Management & Planning.
  • Practice Areas – these are similar to practice areas in law, engineering, or accounting, which represent generally recognized or distinctive areas of knowledge and expertise developed by an economic development practitioner by virtue of education, training, and experience. Some examples of legal practice areas include: Banking & Finance Law, Clinical Negligence Law, Commercial Law, Corporate Law, Employment Law, Environmental Law, Family Law, etc. The current 25 areas of economic development (practice areas) are given below, and they all tend to fall into one of the four main functional areas. The practice areas are complied he training manuals and reference guide of the International Economic Development Council, the basic course of the Ohio Economic Development Association, as well as professional experience. It’s important to note that as with law firms, not every economic development organization works in every area of practice, nor does every economic development professional practice in every area. In fact, the opposite is true.

TSEP’s Practice Areas

TSEP is currently involved with 22 of the 25 areas, at different levels of involvement:

  • Heavy Involvement – marked with three asterisks***
  • Medium Involvement – marked with two asterisks**
  • Light Involvement – marked with one asterisk*
  • No Current Involvement – not marked

The TSEP Team Lead (Dutro, Flood, Kern, Reinhart, Zak) is listed in parentheses after the involvement. If it’s more of a collaborative team effort as opposed to having a primary lead, then “Team.” is listed.

1. Sales & Marketing

Economic development organizations function as a business with a non-profit twist. A “sale” in economic development terms is an economic development project, and the sale is made when that project is made public and/or announced. See the 3 Laws of Economic Development article for more information on projects.

  • Marketing efforts, therefore, by economic development organizations are aimed at generating interest in doing a project in the community. When a business connects with TSEP and expresses such interest, it is called a “lead.” All economic development marketing efforts are aimed at generating leads.
  • Sales is the process that takes place once the prospect (i.e., the business expressing interest in doing a project) connects with TSEP. It starts with the lead and ends with the project decision and announcement.

There are nine key practice area in economic development sales and marketing, grouped into three different areas:

  • By Project Type – targeted to businesses doing certain kinds of projects:
    • 1. Business Retention & Expansion*** (Zak, Kern) – These efforts are targeted on encouraging existing businesses to expand at their current location (in the community.)
    • 2. Economic Development Marketing & Attraction** (Team) – These efforts are targeted on encouraging businesses outside the community to establish a location inside the community.
    • 3. Entrepreneurship & Small Business Development** (Flood) – These efforts are targeted on helping entrepreneurs start new businesses in the community.
  • By Customer Type – targeted to the specialized needs of certain businesses and customers:
    • 4. Foreign Direct Investment & Exporting* (Zak) – These are specialized sales and marketing efforts directed at international companies (both existing and attraction), as well as at existing companies looking to sell internationally (export.)
    • 5. Tech-Led Economic Development* (Zak) – These are specialized sales and marketing efforts directed at fast-growing technology focused (aka high tech) companies and start-ups.
    • 6. Tourism* (Destination Seneca County) – These are specialized sales and marketing efforts directed at existing and potential visitors to a community, with the aim of encouraging them to spend money in the community and stay overnight. Additionally, there is a component aimed at assisting the existing businesses that are tourism-focused.
  • By Location – targeted to businesses located in or considering locating in a particular type of geographic area:
    • 7. Downtown Development*** (Reinhart) – These are sales and marketing effort targeting business retention, expansion, attraction, and entrepreneurship in the downtown.
    • 8. Rural Development** (Flood) – These are sales and marketing effort targeting business retention, expansion, attraction, and entrepreneurship in the rural, non-urban areas.
    • 9. Neighborhood Development Strategies – These are sales and marketing effort targeting business retention, expansion, attraction, and entrepreneurship in specific neighborhoods.

2. Resource Assistance

Economic development organization help to develop, identify, negotiate, and obtain resources for a project in order to encourage it to move forward and assisting the businesses after the project does move forward.

  • 10. Site Selection*** (Dutro) – These are real estate resources that assist companies find an appropriate location to do business (land, building, or space), as well as providing any other information needed to make a location decision.
  • 11. Incentives*** (Team) – These are a variety of financial resources at the state and local level such as tax credits and exemptions, financing programs, and grants that encourage a company to do a project.
  • 12. Employee Recruitment & Training*** (Kern) – This is a service that assists a company find the employees, as well as the training it order to move forward with a project.
  • 13. Economic Development Capital
    • Economic Development Credit Analysis & Finance** (Team) – This is a service that identifies and helps a company obtain financing to fund a project, including, but not limited to programs that the economic development organization may administer. In this regard, being able to perform credit analysis can be very important.
    • Venture Capital* (Zak) – This is a service similar to finance, but identifies and helps a company to obtain funding from non-bank, non-traditional financing and includes seed, angel, and venture capital.

3. Ecosystem Development

An ecosystem is a complex network or interconnected system, and the word is often used in biology and entrepreneurship. The Economic Development Ecosystem is the complex interconnected system of the people, places, utilities, transportation, community and support services that are needed for or desired by businesses in order to be able to secure more projects. Developing and improving that ecosystem is an important part of the economic development profession.

  • 14. Workforce Development*** (Kern, Zak) – Efforts in this area are geared toward developing the pipeline of talent companies can draw on when they are growing and have projects.
  • 15. Program & Policy Development** (Team) – This involves developing new programs to help support projects. Examples of programs and policies we have developed or are developing include the Downtown Facade Enhancement Grant, the Tiffin and Seneca CARES small business relief grant program, food truck policy, public art policy, public property development RFP (Request For Proposals).
  • 16. Real Estate Development & Reuse*** (Dutro) – Efforts in this area are focused on developing real estate for projects (e.g., industrial parks, spec buildings, commercial site development, brownfield development).
  • 17. Infrastructure* (Team) – Efforts in this area are geared towards having the right infrastructure needed to support and/or attract development projects. This includes transportation (roadways, rail, and sometimes water, air) and utilities (water, sewer, electric, gas, broadband). Efforts relating specifically to a project would fall under incentives or site selection.
  • 18. Community Development** (Flood) – Efforts in this area are targeted towards public use projects like parks, schools, transit, housing, safety services, healthcare, etc. that impact quality of life and the overall attractiveness of the community for projects.
  • 19. Cluster Development – Efforts in this area are targeted towards development of the special infrastructure needed to support specific clusters (e.g., supply chain development, market intelligence, R&D, incubator services, training and education programs).

4. Management & Planning

Economic Development leadership and management is the practice area focused on developing a strategic, sustainable, ethical, and inclusive approach to economic development that positions the organization and community for long-term success and desired impact.

  • 20. Economic Development Strategic Planning*** (Zak) – Strategic planning is typically done on a three- to five-year basis, but it can be longer, depending on the plan. Additionally, plans can be specialized and be focused on any of the areas in Sales & Marketing or Research & Development.
  • 21. Managing Economic Development Organizations*** (Zak) – Managing economic development organization consists of team recruitment, development, retention, management, and leadership; organizational planning and development; fundraising, budgeting and financial management; member and stakeholder relations; internal and external communications; committee and board management; as well as crisis management. This also includes ethics, sustainability, and inclusion.
    • Ethics in Economic Development** (Team) – Economic development professionals and organizations must navigate a variety of ethical issues in their practice of economic development.
    • Sustainable Economic Development* (Team) – Sustainability in economic development is a relatively recent practice area that is receiving attention that applies a holistic view of development that considers the social, environmental, and economic implications of projects.
    • Inclusive Economic Development – Inclusion traditionally falls outside the scope of an economic development organization, but in more recent times, it has become an important consideration of thinking within the profession, in which levels of poverty and economic disparity are considered.

Return to What is Economic Development? – Overview.