Your Local Economic Strengths and Weaknesses

The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development: 10 Things You Should Know is part of the Center for Research and Innovation’s ongoing work to provide city leaders with the skills to become informed, strategic decision-makers in economic development. The “ten things” were derived from analysis of successful city programs and interviews with economic development professionals, elected leaders, academics and business organizations.

    Your community's strengths and weaknesses, such as quality-of-life amenities, infrastructure, and workforce skills, determine the potential of your local economy to support economic growth.  This economic profile lays the foundation for creating a realistic vision and strategic direction for economic success that is unique to your community.  Information about your local economy can also help engage and educate constituents and build community support for economic development decisions.

    Assessing Your Local Economy

    Important Factors

    Key Indicators

    Economic conditions

    Unemployment, types and sizes of firms/industries, wages, income, new business starts, retail sales, housing prices, types of imports and exports, number of businesses closed

    Population characteristics

    Population size and growth, age, education level

    Labor force characteristics

    Labor force participation, occupations, skills, commuter characteristics, productivity

    Physical conditions

    Land use, zoning, land values, condition of buildings, vacancy rates, building activity, parking facilities, condition and capacity of infrastructure, air and water quality

    Business climate

    Community attitudes, labor relations, business taxes and regulations, level and quality of municipal services, workforce training, access to and cost of capital, public and private infrastructure

    Knowledge-based resources

    Federal labs, science and research parks, industry incubators, colleges and universities, technical training schools

    Quality of life

    Housing availability, public services, education system, crime rate, cultural and recreational activities, parks and other natural amenities

    Source: Economic Development Strategic Planning. International Economic Development Council, Washington, DC, 2006, pp. 44-48.


    With the assistance of your economic development staff and input from stakeholders, you can identify factors within and outside of the control of local government that impact and shape your local economy.  Identifying strengths and opportunities is crucial, but local officials also should pay attention to weaknesses and potential threats. 

    For example, what industries in your community and region are growing or struggling? What are the skills of your workforce, and are they sufficient to meet the needs of business? What barriers and support services exist for local entrepreneurs and small businesses? Is the local and regional housing stock diverse enough to provide for a wide range of housing needs?

    All of these factors should be understood in comparison to other communities and in the context of broader economic trends.  As a result of this process, you will have a stronger sense of your unique local assets, as well as what you can and should be doing to build on strengths and mitigate weaknesses.

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    2. Your Community's Place in the Broader Regional Economy > 

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