What is an Economic Development Plan? (Overview, Definition, and Examples)

  • By: Tara Astbury
  • March 15, 2024

An economic development plan holds significant weight as it provides a strategic roadmap for communities and state governments to steer their socio-economic vision toward progress and stability. 

But what exactly does an economic development plan entail? What elements comprise an effective economic development plan, and how does it enhance the prosperity of cities and towns across the U.S.?

Read on to learn more about economic development plans, and learn how meeting software simplifies processes, streamlines collaboration, and improves transparency for government meetings.

What is an Economic Development Plan?

An economic development plan is a comprehensive strategy used to foster economic growth and improvement in a region, county, or community. The goal of the economic development plan is to enhance the standard of living, create jobs, and promote the economic well-being of the community.

Economic development planning typically includes the city administrator, city manager, city council, and private organizations that support the community. The city clerk may provide records, while the city treasurer may be responsible for outlining financial possibilities.

Scope of Economic Initiatives

Economic development planning covers a wide scope of improvements and programs. Communities benefit from making the streets more walkable, providing job-market-ready education programs, and zoning and licensing policies that encourage new growth.

Many communities also seek to increase their visibility so that new and relocating businesses become aware of the possibilities of adding to the community’s economic growth. Providing online resources like a relocation guide, a soft-landing program, and an open invitation to local business associations can have a positive effect. 

Regular Updates

Ultimately, a sound economic development plan serves as both a statement of goals and an outline of actions to promote positive economic growth. However, the plan is never a one-time project. Economic conditions and trends change over time, so it’s common to revisit and update the economic development plan every few years. 

Components of an Economic Development Plan

An economic development strategy is made up of multiple parts that work together to promote positive economic progress for the community. Make sure to consider each element in your economic development planning process.

Infrastructure Development

How can you improve your community infrastructure to make it more attractive for new businesses and local residents? Parks, sidewalks, bike lanes, and walkable business sectors all make a big difference. An efficient and pleasant public transportation system, available housing within a reasonable commute, and public amenities all can enhance an economic development plan.

Education and Workforce Development

Analyze the workforce and industry trends to predict the skills needed in the next three to fifteen years. Then, set educational initiatives and establish work-training programs to prepare your local workforce to fulfill these needs. 

Business and Industrial Support

Supporting local businesses and industries can boost your economic growth, as well. Providing relocation resources encourages new businesses to move in, while adjusting policies can boost growth opportunities for industries already established in your community. Use zoning licensing, local regulations, and available business resources to create the employment landscape that best benefits your community.

Regional Planning

Plan to develop your entire region. Consider how the different zones, neighborhoods, and commercial districts work together to create a desirable environment for economic growth. Look for long-term ways to improve the community for residents and businesses, and use your region’s positive aspects to your advantage.

Entrepreneurship and Small Business Support

Support small businesses alongside larger industries. Small businesses are a powerhouse of economic growth, giving your community personality and economic development opportunities. Provide lending, property, licensing, and guidance resources to help entrepreneurs and small businesses get past the launch phase and become established staples of your community.

Social Inclusion and Equity

Lastly, be sure to consider matters like social inclusion and equity. Make sure that your economic development benefits all local neighborhoods and demographics. Include handicap accessibility and diverse representation in your economic development planning process to ensure that you uplift every member and encourage growth across your entire population. 

Economic Development Plan Example

A good example of an economic development plan in action can be found in Burlington, Ontario. Burlington has gone above and beyond to make their community both desirable and visible to families and the private sector. Businesses gain access to relocation and soft-landing resources, as well as assistance programs to help new businesses and community members thrive in the region. 

Burlington also provides helpful research and data, assists with business site selection, and offers tailored assistance for businesses looking to move into the city. 

eScribe Powers Effective Cities

Finding the right tools to support the goals and objectives of your city can be a challenge. With the help of a meeting management solution purpose-built for the public sector, city councils can operate with greater efficiency and effectiveness. eScribe’s unique pricing model is designed to meet the needs of all municipalities, from small towns to big cities.

eScribe provides a rich selection of features to empower your local government board in organizing, decision-making, and putting plans into action. 

To see eScribe in action, check out the City of Greensboro case study.