CEcD Profile: Sean Maguire

Sean Maguire

Vice President for Workforce Development & Community Education

Suny Schenectady County Community College

Past Community: Capital District Regional Planning Commission, New York State Department of State, and the Albany County Department of Economic Development, Conservation, and Planning

CEcD Coursework: OU EDI

CEcD Since: April 2019

Time to CEcD: 1 year*


I think it’s worth the time and effort. Just getting yourself up to speed on all of the classes alone is tremendously valuable. I never in my career had to do loan packaging or evaluating balance sheets. That was one of the most valuable things was economic development finance, which I did right off the bat. I just wanted to dive right into it because it was one of those things, sometimes you’re not comfortable with something it’s probably the thing you should do right away. I would say that it’s helpful to your career if you want to grow and advance in economic development, having somebody else validate the skills that you have is tremendously important.

Certainly now that I’m more into leadership positions, I get to hire people. Those are the individuals that stand out, the ones that took the extra step along the way to not only learn something but to test themselves out and prove it through somebody else. I think that’s why I would do it. I’m all about trying to raise economic development as a profession and there’s a lot of people that come in and their intentions are all well and good to jump right into economic development. There are few that can really stand out and say yeah, not only do I do this job but I put the time and effort in behind it to learn this job. Somebody else has tested those skills and they hold up. The skills and knowledge I have are transferrable across the country. Then you’re all speaking the same language too. I think that’s why it’s important.

I think anybody taking this exam should find somebody who has been through it or going through it. Make a new friend along the way, make a new LinkedIn connection, whatever you’ve got to do. Don’t do this alone, that’s probably the key piece of advice there, don’t go at this alone.

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CEcD Profile: Andrew Matheny

Andrew Matheny


Allen EDC


Past Community: N/A

CEcD Coursework: OU EDI

CEcD Since: *Testing September 2019

Time to CEcD: N/A

If you could choose one thing, what is your most successful economic development tactic?

I would say our marketing has been a big driver of a lot of other things. Recently we’ve put a lot of effort into making sure that our collateral and our website go beyond the standard of the very basic of what you can provide and really try and present information in a compelling way. I know a couple years ago our website got the IEDC Excellence in Economic Development Award. The great thing about that is that it’s nice to see our information on our website appear in other places for, you know, free media. So we’ll find local real estate people who are sending an update out to all the brokers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and they’re using language that pretty clearly came from our website and has just been there for them to get to


What I heard both from David in my office and then they really drill this into you at EDI was you really have to know the content in the manuals. So they were talking about pass rates and things like that, and I think they were saying their surveys and research had shown that the people that don’t pass the CEcD exam, and even though it is a comprehensive test and it’s very detailed, are the people that didn’t take the time to read the materials and know them cover-to-cover so that they could be familiar with all those different fields of economic development. They just assumed that, “Hey, I’ve been in economic development for a while, so I know everything there is to know.” But again, the whole point of that program is the idea that you want to get that whole 360-view of things both that you know and that you don’t know so that you can be certified as somebody who can go into pretty much any community and do economic development there, however they do it.

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About That Economic Development Marketing & Attraction Class

IEDC’s Economic Development Marketing and Attraction course was held in Albuquerque May 10-11, 2018. About 45 economic developers attended the class, with about 15 sharing that they’re pursuing their economic development certification.

In order to fulfill your certification requirements, you must choose two elective courses to attend, one of which can be the Economic Development Marketing and Attraction class. This was the first elective course that I’ve taken and I cannot praise it enough! I absolutely recommend it to anyone who is debating whether or not to attend. Marketing is such an important aspect of economic development in both recruitment and retention aspects and this course teaches you many creative tactics.

Susan Brake, Vice President at Development Counsellors International and Guillermo Mazier, CEO of Atlas Advertising led the class. The instructors were absolutely fantastic! The whole class fed off of their energy and enthusiasm for the material they were teaching. The instructors presented the information in a manner that was easy to understand and they kept the whole class’ attention very well.

This two-day class began Thursday with a welcome and introductions by the instructors that led right into an overview of economic development marketing. It was great beginning since it really set up what we would be learning over the next couple of days. From here, we moved right into positioning your community and finding your niche. The instructors were able to share marketing tactics for all types of EDO’s, whether the community is small and rural or in a large metro area. The next section was on developing a marketing plan and having metrics for success. After this, we broke for lunch on our own.

After lunch, we jumped right back into the course with branding and talent attraction. It was helpful for everyone to take a step back from being in the heart of their communities and really think about what the current branding was and if they would like to emphasize or change that message. The last subject of the day was on foreign direct investment. This was a tough section just because there is so much information when it comes to FDI and information changes depending what part of the globe you are visiting or doing business with. It was interesting hearing the speaker discuss how they work with their sister cities. After this session we were excused for the day and were responsible for having dinner on our own.

Day two began with websites, which is so important since that is usually the first impression that a prospect will have of your community. Most prospects that look at your website will never even reach out to speak to you, because they will try to glean all of the information they need about your community online. It is so important that every economic development organization has a user-friendly website that is filled with the information that you want prospects to know about your community. Websites must also have your contact information in an easily accessible area. This class led us into discussing online marketing and lead generation, which discussed more target marketing rather than simply supplying information on a website. The last session before we were released for lunch was on social media and finding ways to be constantly creating new content.

When we resumed the class after lunch, Susan and Guillermo shared with us a couple of case studies that they have worked on where they were helping clients with their marketing efforts, including their brand and website. The last session of the course was an interactive group project, where we divided up into tables and were responsible for creating a marketing plan for one of the communities represented at our table. My table created a marketing plan for St. Petersburg, Florida. Every group had the opportunity to share their marketing plan with the class and it was neat hearing what everyone was planning for the different communities.

Finally, we took a class photo and received our certificates.

I really enjoyed this class – actually it was my favorite class so far. I strongly recommend it for anyone deciding which electives to attend, and even for people not pursuing their certification who would just like to brush up on some marketing skills. In the economic development field, it is vital that we all are knowledgeable on marketing so that we are able to best sell our communities.

You can check out IEDC’s list of classes to see when the next Economic Development Marketing and Attraction class will be held.

How to Study for the CEcD Exam

With a 33% pass rate, saying that the Economic Development Certification exam is intimidating would be an understatement. Countless economic developers have stressed that you cannot rely on your professional experience alone to pass this exam. These CEcDs emphasize the importance of dedicating months of study time in order to prepare. Most people that I’ve spoken to have suggested consistently studying for at least the 6 months leading up to the exam.

So what do they suggest in terms of study material?

1. Know the IEDC Training Manuals

First and foremost, read the IEDC training manuals. At every IEDC class that I’ve attended, the instructors have stressed that solely attending the classes will not prepare you for the exam. In fact, reading, re-reading, and knowing the manuals cover to cover seems like an absolute MUST when preparing for the exam. Better yet, take notes while reading the manual and read those several times, as well.

2. Memorize the Glossary Terms

Every training manual contains a Glossary in the back of the book. You will need to know these terms. People that have been on the 123 CEcD podcast have suggested making flashcards of all Glossary terms. Feeling tech-y? Some people have even used Quizlet to create flash cards for terms, phrases, equations, etc. One person that I interviewed on the podcast suggested recording yourself reading the flashcards and playing it in the car whenever you drive somewhere in order to really nail down those terms.

3. Practice Short Answer and Essay Questions

Another study tactic that has been advised many, many times is practicing short answer and essay questions. Countless CEcD’s have attested that the essay portion of the exam is the most challenging. Some say because the art of writing is more challenging to retain once completing school. Others have said that simply organizing one’s thoughts so the essay flows nicely is difficult. Still others have said that the sheer amount of knowledge needed to answer the questions makes the essays more challenging. In any case, practicing this particular section of the exam is vital. So, how do you find practice short answer and essay questions?

4. Work through Case Studies

I’d suggest reviewing the case studies that the instructors distribute at each class. Several instructors have advised studying these as potential short answer and essay questions.

5. Attend the OU EDI CEcD Exam Prep Course

The Oklahoma University Economic Development Institute (OU EDI) offers a “CEcD Exam Prep Course” that is very popular among professionals preparing for the exam. In fact, many economic developers who take the IEDC classes rather than OU EDI still prioritize this prep course when preparing for the exam. People have mentioned that this is a great way to practice the short answer, essay, and oral portions of the exam. Attending this class will also put you in contact with others preparing for the exam. I’d recommend forming a study group of your peers to divide up preparing study materials and also to encourage each other along the journey.

6. Find a Mentor

Lastly, and this I cannot stress enough: find some mentors who have already passed the exam. What better way to prepare than by listening to what others have already found to be effective study methods and learning what aspects of the exam surprised them and what their advice is for you as you study. On the 123CEcD podcast, I invite each guest to share all of these aspects of their exam preparation and more. I’d recommend that you check out a couple of episodes just to hear real accounts of people’s experiences with the exam.

I know there are countless study methods out there, but I hope one or more of these suggestions helps inspire you to begin (or even continue) your exam preparation.

Have you passed the exam already? How did you study? Let me know at [email protected]. I’d love to continue adding your various study methods to this blog post.

CEcD Profile: Randall Malik

Randall Malik, CEcD

Assistant Director of Economic Development

Cedar Park, Texas


Past Community: City of Rosenberg, Texas, Cuero Development Corporation

CEcD Coursework: IEDC

CEcD Since: December 2016

Time to CEcD: 7 years

What most surprised you about the certification process:

Just how comprehensive the exam process is. You truly have to have a broad understanding of the IEDC materials and the coursework to be able to pass the exam. I’m certainly surprised at how challenging it was. Everyone says it’s a hard exam, you can see from the past rates that it’s difficult, but once you experience it you realize just how difficult of a process it can be.

If you could choose one thing, what is your most successful economic development tactic?

I think in this industry just relationship building is so important and that’s something I’ve really put a lot of effort into from the site selector brokerage community down to your local and regional allies, it’s been a real priority for me to develop and nurture those relationships. We always hear that economic development is truly a team sport and that’s absolutely the case and you need the expertise of your ED allies in order to accomplish the projects that you’re working on. So developing and cultivating relationships is something I really strive hard to achieve.


It’s a difficult process, but really through immersing yourself in the IEDC material you’ll become a better economic development practitioner, learn economic development trends and tips that will serve your economic development organization well. And also it’s not just helpful theoretical knowledge, it actually can be used on a day-to-day aspect in how you run your economic development organization, so it’s been helpful for me and I think it will be … It’s a good process for anyone to go through.

Reach out to colleagues who have just gone through that process or that you know are going to go through that process and share notes and study together. It’s a difficult process to do on your own. Having some allies that can help you out and that you can study with is certainly what helped get me through that process and I think could be helpful for everyone. And engaging those folks, again, who have just received their certification – they can provide helpful advice on studying tactics and just getting you prepared to go through what is a very difficult process.

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About That Business Retention & Expansion Class

In January of 2018, IEDC offered their Business Retention and Expansion (BRE) class in Las Vegas. The BRE class is one of the four required courses in order to be eligible to sit for the certification exam. There were about 60 attendees at this particular class, which was nice because we were able to get to know everyone a little better in a smaller group setting.

The instructors were wonderful! They did a great job engaging the class and encouraging participation. In fact, we spent a lot of time having fellow attendees share with the class some of their BRE best practices that they have implemented in their communities.

The two-day course began with instructor introductions and a class overview, where they defined economic development and other helpful terms that we needed to be familiar with for the rest of the course. From there, we did a small group case study on a community that did not have an organized economic development strategy and was really struggling to attract and retain companies. This was a great project and every group had different methods of getting this community back on track.

After having lunch on our own, we discussed global factors that influence business retention and expansion policies, programs, strategies, and desired outcomes. Topics ranged from technology such as virtual reality, self-driving cars, and robots, to the impact of Amazon and the closing of Toys R Us stores. I thoroughly enjoyed this session of the class!

The next session covered workforce development. A vital part of an effective BRE program, the class spent a great amount of time discussing different workforce development programs that have worked in our respective communities.

The attendees were responsible for dinner on our own tonight.

Day two began with a discussion about working with various business retention stakeholders. We discussed to what degree we should ignite participation from political and business leadership during formal site visits and business walks. Also, the instructors suggested what reasonable goals economic developers should set for their BRE programs depending on the size of their community and economic development team. The biggest takeaway from this session was to do your homework before going on a site visit and DO NOT under any circumstances take a survey to work through with the business leaders. In other words, discuss their business with them – successes, challenges, and how to increase their participation in the community – rather than going through a 50-question document about their number of employees, scope of business, suppliers, etc.

This led to a discussion about BRE databases, where the instructors encouraged us to keep current records of the businesses in our communities. However, they also reiterated not to print out a list of the questions in the database and survey business leaders while on retention visits.

After having lunch on our own, we reconvened with a discussion on disaster preparedness. During this discussion we studied how communities have implemented recovery plans to deal with the impact of natural disasters.

Because we were running out of time, we briefly touched on marketing and branding our business retention and expansion programs and also utilizing social media for our BRE efforts.

The instructors summarized what the key takeaways were that they wanted attendees to keep in mind while working through their BRE programs. After two days full of extremely important information, we all received our course certificates.

So far, this has been my favorite IEDC class, mainly because I have a special place in my heart for BRE. The instructors also shared a plethora of BRE knowledge and did an incredible job of encouraging class discussion.

I’m excited for all those on their certification journey to experience this class. To those who are not pursuing their economic development certification: I strongly recommend attending this class for purely the amount of practical knowledge you will be flooded with.

About That Real Estate Development & Reuse Class

In November of 2017, I attended IEDC’s Real Estate Development & Reuse class, which is one of the four core courses for receiving one’s Economic Development Certification. Since this class is required for everyone interested in pursuing the certification, it was a very large class of about 100 economic development professionals from all across the country and in different stages of their careers. First and foremost, this was a great networking opportunity. At the beginning of class on the first day the instructors introduced themselves and gave a quick overview of the next couple of days, and then each attendee was invited to introduce them self to the class. This was great because it allowed myself and others the opportunity to put a face to a handful of names that we’ve heard or have spoken to on the phone or email, but never actually met in person.

The instructors were great! It was easy to see that they all have a passion for economic development and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others who are interested in learning more about the field.

The two-day course was packed with important information that attendees found important both for their day to day job and for preparing for the certification exam. The first session was an overview of real estate development and reuse. It was a very thorough presentation and was a good way to touch upon all the different aspects of the topic. We then began diving deeper by having a session on market and site analysis, where we learned about development feasibility. The last session before lunch was titled “Regulatory and Approval Process,” which discussed how economic developers should facilitate the many different discussions regarding development, whether it be with public officials or with developers.

Attendees were dismissed to have lunch on their own.

After lunch, we reconvened for the session “The Real World,” in which we discussed how the current economic climate is affecting real estate development projects. This was easily my favorite session! Next up was what was generally believed to be the most challenging session, “Financial Feasibility.” During this session, attendees learned how to analyze a development project’s financial feasibility. We even had a case study where attendees worked through a “project’s” financials to find the net operating income and cash flow. The last session of the day was on political feasibility and community involvement, where we learned about creating public support for a development project and engaging community stakeholders.

Attendees were dismissed to have dinner on their own.

Day two began with the session “Developer Solicitation, Selection and Agreements,” where attendees learned about reading and responding to developer Request for Proposals (RFPs). Next, the class broke out into small groups to work on case studies on various real estate deals. After a lunch break, the class began the last stretch with a session on Brownfield redevelopment. Since this topic has become more common and is a tedious venture, the vast majority of the class found this to be one of the most helpful sessions. The last session was “Local Financing and Local Tools for Development,” which discussed different methods for financing including tax increment financing, tax abatements, special improvement districts, and bond financing.

The flow of the class was excellent and the instructors did a great job of keeping the attendees’ attention. I really enjoyed supplementing the course material with the hands-on case studies.

I enjoyed meeting others who are preparing for the certification exam. I am constantly impressed with the community of professionals in economic development who truly want to help each other with their careers and with the certification.

Although the class was extremely thorough, the instructors stressed that simply attending the classes will not prepare you for the certification exam. Those preparing for the exam MUST study the manual given to each attendee on the first day of class.


Check out the link below to see what people are saying about IEDC’s other classes.

About That Basic Economic Development Class

CEcD Profile: Mary Kuna

Mary Kuna, CEcD

Economic Development Manager

Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation


Past Community: Cecil County, Newcastle County Chamber of Commerce

CEcD Coursework: IEDC

CEcD Since: December 2016

Time to CEcD: 5 years

What most surprised you about the certification process:

What surprised me in the process was that people were so alarmed by it and they were sort of terrified of this exam. That was a big surprising to me overall…People were so passionate about how difficult it was. But at the same time, what was sort of beautiful in that terror was that people really united together in trying to assist each other. They wanted to give you advice. There was no sort of, it was hard for me, so I’m going to make it hard for you. It was, here was my study method – here are my thoughts for you. It was just a very beautiful process of colleagues trying to help each other out.

If you could choose one thing, what is your most successful economic development tactic?

I think at the end of the day, it’s relationships and being able to cultivate relationships in a very genuine and sincere way. What I mean is, the entire field of economic development gets attacked very often because of incentive programs and trying to be this balancing act between what businesses want and what community members want and what governments want. The truth is, you’re only as successful as your credibility. At the end of the day, we build relationships between different groups, but we build those because of our credibility. We build those because of our sincerity and our honesty. When we’re not, as people, but particularly as the economic developers, it is detrimental to us. So I think that’s the one tactic, is to be able to cultivate relationships in a very sincere and honest manner.


It’s really worth it. It does take time and it’s going to take a financial commitment. You can look at it from two perspectives. From the very practical perspective, if you’ve invested this much time in something, in a field, and you’ve taken a couple of classes, then it’s a nice achievement. This is something that you’ve worked towards. It’s all been towards something and it’s sort of a culmination of that that you can also take personally. You know, I’ve done this, now this is the opportunity to go and get certified in it.

The truth of the test itself is that it is complicated and it is a lot of memorization and writing. I think people get very uncomfortable with that, but I could tell you that really anyone can do it. It will take a little bit of work, but it’s like your days in high school and college, where you study so hard for a test and you passed and that made you feel fantastic. It’s the same exact feeling that comes with this. You’ve put the work in and you’ll get the results like anything in life. I would tell people, take the fear and the comments about “oh it’s terrible” and “they have a low pass rate,” take that and use it to your advantage. Kind of use that as your fire. Make connections with colleagues and ask advice and don’t let it deter you because it’s hard, let it inspire you that this is an opportunity for you to really make your mark.

When you actually start studying for the test and you do apply, I would say my best advice, and someone actually gave me this advice, go through the books with a fine-tooth comb and make yourself flashcards or make yourself an outline. I would say that was probably the best advice I was ever given. It becomes so daunting, but do it one book at a time. Do it one subject at a time and you’ll get there. It seems very frightening, but you will get there. Don’t get in that mindset of, oh, there’s too much.

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Keeping that CEcD Motivation

Pursuing your Economic Development Certification is quite a long and exciting journey. One of the many challenging aspects of the process to achieve this designation is that you are not actively preparing for the exam. You take the preparation classes and study in your own time. While some economic developers are able to take all of the classes within a year, most find themselves having months in between classes. Pair this staggering schedule with the intimidation of a rigorous exam looming in your future, and many economic developers will find themselves losing the passion and excitement for this journey. So how do you keep enthusiasm during these dormant months?

  1. Look at the IEDC or OU class schedules and make a timeline. IEDC recently posted their 2018 class schedule on their website. Looking at when and where the classes will be held and also reading the class agenda will help ignite interest and give you something to look forward to.
  2. Reach out to Certified Economic Developers and discuss their experience. Learning what classes they’ve taken, how they prepared for the exam, and what they thought of the exam will give you something to relate to. You can even ask them how they overcame the times when they had a loss of excitement for the program. Another question that I love asking Certified Economic Developers is how they use the certification in their career now. Hearing how they actively use their certification will give you something to look forward to and an stronger desire to achieve your own certification.
  3. Listen to the 123 CEcD Podcast. Don’t know any Certified Economic Developers? Just feel uncomfortable asking about their experience with the exam? The 123 CEcD Podcast is for you! Every month, I interview a different economic developer who has passed the certification exam. I ask them questions about how they studied, what most surprised them about the exam, and more. The guests on the podcast give advice to those preparing for the exam, as well as people debating whether or not to pursue their own certification. You can find the podcast on our website, SoundCloud, and iTunes.
  4. Be a guest blogger for 123 CEcD. Need to reignite the passion and excitement for the class that you took a few months ago? Please consider writing a guest blog for our 123 CEcD blog. No, you do not need to be certified to write a blog! We are always looking for people to write about their experience taking a class, preparing for the exam, or really anything CEcD! Please let me know in advance if this is something that you would be interested in.

I hope one (or more) of these ideas will help you stay motivated on your journey to your Economic Development Certification! I’m rooting for you!!

CEcD Profile: Kelly Violette

Kelly Violette, CEcD

Executive Director

Tomball (Texas) Economic Development Corporation


Past Community: Riverside, CA

CEcD Coursework: IEDC

CEcD Since: June 2017

Time to CEcD: 6 years

What most surprised you about the certification process:

I think probably the thing that surprised me was when I got in there to take the test, I knew how much time we’d have for each section, but it really hit me when we were taking the essay portion, because it’s so much. From the time they said, “Go,” you’re typing, and you really almost don’t have time to pause and think of your next sentence, because of the fact that you know you’re under such a time constraint. That probably was the thing that surprised me the most, was just that feeling almost of a panic, of not having enough time to complete all the essays, and then go back and format them, and re-read them, and whatnot.

If you could choose one thing, what is your most successful economic development tactic?

Probably collaborating with other groups, and building consensus. I think some of that comes from my planning background. When you’re a planner, you really are looking at consensus building, and creating this shared vision. For me, I’ve kind of taken that with me in economic development. That’s one thing that I think we all do, through relationship building, and working together with our allies and partners. I think for me, that’s probably my most successful tactic, because you’re able to do more with more hands. I think the more we can work together, the better off we all are.


I would tell them that they should go for it. Really, you have nothing to lose other than your time. If you’re not willing to invest your time in yourself, then I think you really need to look at what your passion is. To me, the idea of becoming certified was really more of a personal achievement. I think it’s great – it makes me more marketable as an economic developer and there’s a sense of accomplishment, but I looked at it really as an investment and a challenge to myself.

Definitely to read all the material. I mean, there’s no doubt about it. You’ve got to read all the manuals, and re-read them in order to pass the test. There’s no doubt about that. I’d tell them to talk with others that have taken the test, those that have passed and failed, because I think for me, one of the things that really helped in preparing, was just talking with other people, and finding out how long they studied for, and were there certain books that they focused more on, and whatnot. Just getting the advice, and mentorship from others is huge.

Be disciplined in your study habits. That was something that was really a constant challenge for me, because we’re busy. You’re busy at work, you’re busy at home, and trying to set aside time on my schedule to devote to this test. I’ve had to just set it like I would any other meeting or appointment, and make that something that was a priority. So being disciplined in your study habits is huge.

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