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: *Testing April 2019

Time to CEcD: 1 year*

Advice:

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.

Podcast Episode:

CEcD Profile: Andrew Matheny

Andrew Matheny

Analyst

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

Advice:

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.

Podcast Episode:

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.

Advice:

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.

Podcast Episode:

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.

Advice:

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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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.

Advice:

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.

Podcast Episode:

CEcD Profile: Jenny Mizutowicz

Jenny Mizutowicz, CEcD

Economic Development Manager

City of Carrollton, Texas

 

Past Community: Richardson Economic Development Partnership

CEcD Coursework: IEDC

CEcD Since: January 2016

Time to CEcD: 5 years

What most surprised you about the certification process:

To be honest with you, I didn’t feel like there were any surprises. We were told through IEDC mentors at the primer that the test is pretty straight forward, that if you study the material, if you read the books, you’ll be prepared. And that turned out to be true. There really is no just skating by. There’s a lot of material and you frankly need to read it all. And that’s what I did and I felt that the test, after preparing for it like that, was manageable. It was straight forward. I didn’t feel like I was being tricked or misled. I thought that there really were no surprises. You put the work in and you should be successful.

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

I’d say for me, it’s the external facing engagement that we do as economic developers. So it’s engagement with brokers and forming a relationship with the real estate community. We had these quarterly events called Broker Developer Luncheons where we would invite the Dallas-Forth Worth commercial real estate community out to have lunch and listen to a speaker at a vacant or an available Richardson property. And so it benefited the property owners by creating some awareness for that building and creating some visibility. And it helped the brokers community by seeing the inventory that we have in Richardson. And then also just professional development of meeting their peers, hearing from thought leaders. And then it helped us because it helped us create that relationship with commercial real estate brokers.

Advice:

I would tell them that yes you really need to read the books. I have a feeling that the pass rate is as low as it is because people don’t believe that you actually have to read all that content. And I understand that it seems a little overwhelming at first. Those books are pretty thick. But my advice is that yes, you read the bullet points, make note cards, know the material. You need to know it.

It’s worth the investment because it makes you more marketable, more competitive as a candidate. And it helps add credibility for our profession to make it a recognized field. I would do it. It’s worth it. It proved being worth it to me.

Podcast Episode:

CEcD Profile: Ashton Allison

Ashton Allison, CEcD

Consultant

TIP Strategies

 

Past Community: Amarillo EDC

CEcD Coursework: IEDC

CEcD Since: October 2014

Time to CEcD: 4 years

What most surprised you about the certification process:

I’ll have to say the comprehensive nature of the exam most surprised me, or maybe a simpler way to describe that would be just the sheer volume of material you have to be familiar with.

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

Well I technically have two but they’re somewhat interrelated. I would say number one is relationship building and this is really true of anything that you do in life. Personal selling. However you want to coin the term, but cultivating relationships with other people is the name of the game in economic development.

Secondly, I would say asking questions is another really important tactic, again, in any profession that you choose to go into, but especially economic development because as I mentioned before there’s so much to know regarding economic development and it’s just not possible to know it all.

Advice:

Plain and simple I would just say number one, don’t be in a rush. Number two, do your homework. Because this is such a significant undertaking and requires such a large portion of time and time away from family and all the other things that demand our time in life it’s important that you just take time to think about it, mull throughout, do your research, do your due diligence to determine if it’s right for you and the future of your career.

Well it just so happens that I just wrote a blog entry for our TIP Strategies newsletter and blog called “The 5 P’s of Passing the CEcD Exam.”

  1. Plan ahead – make sure you give yourself plenty of time to consider the opportunity and to plan out how you’re going to approach it.
  2. Pick other people’s brains – this is a great opportunity to do some things that you probably should be doing anyway as an economic development professional and that’s networking with others especially certified economic developers, talk to people who have taken the exam, and learn about their experiences, get tips from them, that sort of thing. Find a mentor, mentoring is an excellent way to prepare for the exam and just to become a better professional.
  3. Prepare – this is a no brainer, but this test requires studying and a lot of it.
  4. Practice – this is especially important in the essay portion. Sometimes people who don’t pass it’s not because they don’t know the material, it’s because they don’t finish in time.
  5. Pat yourself on the back – even if you consider the opportunity but decide not to take it on you should commend yourself for furthering your career.

Podcast Episode:

CEcD Profile: Tracy Garcia

Tracy Garcia, CEcD

Economic Development Manager

Visit Central Florida & Polk County Sports Marketing

 

Past Community: Central Florida Development Council

CEcD Coursework: IEDC

CEcD Since: January 2016

Time to CEcD: 3 years

What most surprised you about the certification process:

I think what really surprised me was the difficulty of the exam. I had heard it was tough, and I expected it to be tough, but I guess when you’re actually going through it and experiencing it, it becomes more of a reality. So that kind of took me by surprise, because in my past whenever I was taking exams and tests, I did really well on it. The difficult really did surprise me, but in the end it challenged me as well.

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

I think my most successful tactic is staying engaged with our stakeholders and keeping in constant contact with our project partners, as well as actively listening to what their needs are. Being engaged and actively listening makes one more knowledgeable and resourceful and can anticipate what they’re going to ask for in the future so you can do some research prior to them actually asking for your help. You can kind of see it coming, in a sense.

Advice:

Take it one course at a time, one study session at a time. One exam at a time, if need be. Pace yourself but just keep at it. It doesn’t matter if you pass on the first or the fifth try. Becoming a Certified Economic Developer would be worth it in the long run. Just don’t give up.

I remembered specifically the finance class, the programs there really went into depth. I think that was probably my most challenging class that I took. My takeaway was I was really intrigued and learned a lot about how the balance sheets of corporations and really delving into their past really makes a difference whenever you’re looking to incentivize a specific company.

Podcast Episode:

CEcD Profile: Ray Dunlap

Ray Dunlap

Economic Development Manager

Town of Fairview

 

Past Community: N/A

CEcD Coursework: IEDC

CEcD Since: To be Certified…

Time to CEcD: N/A

Can you tell us why you chose to go the IEDC classes route, versus the OU route?

With the schedule with OU, you’ve got a week and it’s more intense. Quite frankly, with the responsibilities of the day-to-day operation of the Economic Development Corporation, it’s easier to be gone two to three days here, two to three days there, and space those out. Plus it will give me time in between to digest those. I know people that have done it both ways and I think it’s kind of a tomato-tomato potato-potato as to what you like as far as your learning ability. I tend to like the smaller courses.

What has most surprised you about the classes that you’ve been taking?

I think the quality of the instructors. I do think that IEDC has chosen some really good instructors that present the material in a good way. You’re going to spend a couple of days, five, six, seven hours a day, in a class. You want people that can convey the information in an interesting way. I think that IEDC did that, especially with the real estate development. You had people that had been on the front lines in real estate development and people that had worked the deals from the economic development side and they had good speaking styles, they had an interesting way of presenting the information, they were open to questions and there was a lot of good class interaction.

Advice:

I would look at what your responsibilities are and what your knowledge is. I know that my knowledge is increasing by taking the courses and frankly I toyed with whether or not the certification was worth it, but the fact that my board and my boss thought that it was a good idea. Then that automatically makes it a good idea for me. Now that I’m actually going down the path, I’ve really enjoyed it. It is increasing my knowledge about my position. It’s also increasing my professionalism in my position.

The devil is in the details and one of the thing that I have done is that I have identified multiple peers who have their certification. There are three different people who got their certifications at different times and they have all agreed to mentor me through the process. I picked their brains and listened to their advice. I will really pick their brains and listen to their advice once I finish the courses and really start to study for the exam, because my intent is to pass the exam first time.

It’s amazing already with the oral part of the exam and the review, I understand that you need to show up dressed professionally because you’re being interviewed by your peers. You’re interviewed by people who have worked hard to get the certification and they want to make sure you know how to present yourself professionally. I learned show up dressed for success for the interview. I also learned that the essay part of it, so far, is that there are different graders, but graders are looking for key words and they’re looking in the essay part of the test for an understanding that you know your job, you know what you’re doing, you know the profession, and you know how to make things happen. Those are things that I will be working on really hard as I study and get closer to the exam.

Podcast Episode:

CEcD Profile: Shawn Kirkpatrick

Shawn Kirkpatrick, CEcD

Executive Director

Bastrop, TX EDC

 

Past Community: Levelland EDC

CEcD Coursework: OU EDI

CEcD Since: December 2016

Time to CEcD: 5 years

What most surprised you about the certification process:

It really takes a commitment. You really need to start six months in advance of what your test date is, and really be dedicated to reviewing the material, preparing for the exam.

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

This is really personal selling 101. Internally it’s the folks in your community, but externally it’s the commercial real estate agents, commercial brokers, and site consultants. It’s owners of companies, and their executive real estate teams. So it really is getting out there and putting yourself in the right environments to meet the right folks. People like to do business with people they know. So you can do all of the marketing and advertising out there, but if you’re not beating the street and beating the bushes to go meet people, it’s very difficult to be successful in this business.

Advice:

Taking that hour, two hours a day, to crack open a manual to test write essays, it really takes some dedication to that. I think when I finally came around for the Albuquerque exam, and was really test writing essays on a daily basis for a couple of months coming into the exam, that’s what made the difference.

Start the course work, get your course work underneath your belt, and go for it. I think that it’s an important certification, whether you’re going to serve as what I like to refer to as a one seat as an Executive Director or CEO of an organization, or you’re going to go be a project manager, or in one of the other positions in an organization. I think it’s a good certification to have, and I think that because of the difficulty to attain it, because they don’t just hand them out on the street corner, it’s something that you really can be proud of. You really if you can get through the process, you are an expert and a professional in this field.

I rushed through the course work to have a gap before I was ready to take the exam. Lay out your schedule, do your best to stick to it. Pick that date out there to when you want to start the exam process, and work your way back in going how am I going to complete all of the coursework to get to that point. Just consistently stay with it because when you take, and everybody’s a little bit different, if I take six months off from doing something I’m not as motivated to come back for it. So, whatever it is for you, be consistently moving towards completing the course work and aiming for that exam date that you have set out there, and go for it.

 

 

Podcast Episode: