The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development

Leadership is consistently identified as a critical factor in effective economic development. Although leadership can come from many places within the community, local elected officials are particularly well-positioned to take on this role. "The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development: 10 Things You Should Know" identifies fundamental ways elected officials can become informed and strategic decision-makers who can connect the policy "dots," be effective communicators, and take a leadership role in economic development.

The format of the guide is a "top 10 list" of things elected officials should know about economic development in order to be effective leaders. These include:


  1. Your local economic strengths and weaknesses.  A stronger understanding of your community's economic profile will help you create a realistic vision and strategies for economic development. 
  2. Your community's place in the broader regional economy.  With a firmer grasp of how your community fits into the broader region, you're better prepared to work with other jurisdictions to share responsibility for regional economic success. 
  3. Your community's economic development vision and goals.   Local elected officials can play a key role in building consensus for a vision and goals that provide clear direction for local economic development.  
  4. Your community's strategy to attain its goals.  A strategic approach means linking economic development goals to specific activities, allocating a budget and staff to these activities, and evaluating performance based on measurable outcomes. 
  5. Connections between economic development and other city policies.  When crafting economic development policies, it is essential to consider how other city policies (e.g., transportation or housing) affect your economic development goals. 
  6. Your regulatory environment.  Your community's regulatory process should allow for timely, reliable and transparent resolution of issues facing businesses, while still remaining true to your long-term economic development vision.
  7. Your local economic development stakeholders and partners.  Local officials should think strategically on a project-by-project basis about who needs to be involved, the resources they bring to the table, and what it will take to get them engaged. 
  8. The needs of your local business community.  Local officials can help create an environment that supports the growth and expansion of local businesses, primarily by opening lines of communication.
  9. Your community's economic development message.  You will want a clear, accurate and compelling message that reflects your local vision and that helps ensure broad support for economic development projects undertaken by the city and its partners. 
  10. Your economic development staff.  Local elected officials will be more effective in leading economic development activities to the extent that they forge strong relationships with staff members who work on these issues on a daily basis.