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What is Economic Development?

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You most likely help fund economic development every time you purchase something at the store and pay local or state sales tax. That cup of coffee, those new shoes you bought, or the real estate taxes you may pay, all usually have a percentage of the sales going towards economic development projects or initiatives.

In general, economic development is usually the focus of federal, state, and local governments to improve our standard of living through the creation of jobs, the support of innovation and new ideas, the creation of higher wealth, and the creation of an overall better quality of life. Economic development is often defined by others based on what it is trying to accomplish. Many times these objectives include building or improving infrastructure such as roads, bridges, etc.; improving our education system through new schools; enhancing our public safety through fire and police service; or incentivizing new businesses to open a location in a community.

Economic development often is categorized into the following three major areas:

  1. Governments working on big economic objectives such as creating jobs or growing an economy. These initiatives can be accomplished through written laws, industries’ regulations, and tax incentives or collections.
  2. Programs that provide infrastructure and services such as bigger highways, community parks, new school programs and facilities, public libraries or swimming pools, new hospitals, and crime prevention initiatives.
  3. Job creation and business retention through workforce development programs to help people get the needed skills and education they need. This also includes small business development programs that are geared to help entrepreneurs get financing or network with other small businesses.

How do we know if economic development is working? There are hundreds of ways to measure things for the hundreds of different economic development objectives that communities may have. We can measure many of the above things through improvements in average income of families, local unemployment rates, standardized testing and literacy results in children, leisure time and changes in life expectancy, or hospital stays.

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