About That Basic Economic Development Class

 Ashton Ghaemi, Director of Research & Marketing at the Sherman, Texas Economic Development Corporation, has recently begun the required coursework for her Economic Development Certification. She shares with readers a description and her thoughts on the Basic Economic Development Class.

Like so many in this field, I fell into economic development without even knowing what was happening. In December 2014, I took a position at a local community college and trained with my predecessor who went to work for the Sherman Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO). Months later, she called to ask if I could temp for her one Friday at SEDCO. At the end of that Friday, the Executive Vice President asked if I could return every week since the college was on a four-day summer schedule. I jumped at the opportunity to make some extra money and spent those Fridays organizing filing cabinets and supply closets. When the college’s five-day schedule resumed, SEDCO asked if I wanted to continue working in my free time. So, I worked for a few hours each week in the evenings. In September 2015, SEDCO hired a new President, and on his first day, he asked me to join the team full-time. It’s been almost two years since I started as a temp, and now I am the Director of Research & Marketing and pursuing a Certified Economic Developer designation. I wear numerous hats at SEDCO. My job responsibilities include preparing project proposals, creating marketing materials and press releases, managing our website and social media accounts, preparing monthly board meeting materials and a newsletter, planning and organizing events, and overseeing daily office operations.

In November 2016, I attended the Texas Economic Development Council’s Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC) in Frisco, Texas. BEDC provided an excellent foundation of a variety of economic development topics, such as Community Development, Finance, Attraction and Marketing, Strategic Planning, Small Business Development, Business Retention and Expansion, Workforce Development, Real Estate Development and Reuse, Retail, Management, and Ethics. I registered for BEDC to earn the course credit for the certification program, so I soaked up every session and took lots of notes when the speakers hinted about test questions.

I believe one of the most important aspects of BEDC was networking and forming relationships with classmates. Each day, we sat at a new table, exchanged business cards and completed projects together. After four days of table hopping and lunches with classmates, you learn about the challenges their communities face and their project successes and failures. These real-life economic development examples created great conversation starters and gave us the opportunity to hear the speakers’ feedback based on their knowledge and experience in the field. We were told we would make career-long connections with our classmates, and they were right. Since BEDC, I have kept in contact with some of my classmates through my job and social media. The class also formed a Facebook group, which is used as a platform for peer questions and suggestions.

My next certification course is Real Estate Development and Reuse in San Diego this November, and if all goes according to plan, I am on track to take the exam in 2019. I have heard it is quite intimidating, but I am excited for the challenge and to continue this journey through the certification process.