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.

Passing the CEcD Exam: Five P’s in Five Minutes

We all know that the CEcD Exam is challenging. With a 33% average pass rate, we all could use as much advice as we can accumulate. Guest blogger Ashton Allison, CEcD, a Consultant at TIP Strategies, shares how to best prepare for the exam.

The International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) program is the leading industry designation for demonstrating comprehensive mastery of the field. Having “CEcD” after your name puts you in a distinguished group of approximately 1,100 economic developers around the world, and shows you have the breadth and depth of knowledge to perform at the highest levels of the profession.

It’s a big step. If you’re planning to pursue your CEcD designation, you may be excited about a new challenge, yet daunted by the time commitment, financial investment, and pass rate statistics. As someone who stood in your shoes three years ago, I can tell you—you’re not alone in feeling this mix of emotions.

As I complete my first recertification this year, I’m reminded of a few tips that helped me along the way. While techniques vary based on personal preferences, I hope the following insights can assist you in crafting your own approach to preparing for the exam.

  1. Plan Ahead. First, ensure you will meet IEDC’s criteria by the time you sit for the exam. I recommend choosing an exam date that gives you at least six to eight months to prepare (unless you’re gifted at cramming). Create an action plan that’s tied to a calendar so that you cover all the material in a realistic amount of time. For me, this meant studying a few hours every night (including some weekends). Give yourself a two-week cushion in case you get behind. Finally, if possible, make plans to give yourself a full day of uninterrupted studying the day before the exam.
  2. Pick Others’ Brains. Networking with other CEcDs is a great way to develop professionally, learn what type of material might be on the exam, uncover tips to prepare, and find a mentor. IEDC offers a formal mentor matchmaking program for members. For more information, visit www.iedconline.org.
  3. Prepare. Some have called this program the “CPA” or “MBA” of the economic development field. There’s no way around it…you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time studying to give yourself the best chance of passing. Taking detailed notes during training courses, reading every manual (the answers are all in there), and enrolling in a practice course are all smart moves. Creating flash cards is also a great way to absorb and review the material.
  4. Practice. Remember, this is a timed test. It’s not only how much you know, but how quickly you can convey it. Many people who know the material are unable to pass because they haven’t practiced enough or don’t manage their time effectively during the exam. Create practice tests (with essay questions especially) and gradually increase your time constraints.
  5. Pat Yourself on the Back. Take a moment to commend yourself for making this important decision for your career. And as you make your way through the process, reflect regularly on the progress you’ve made. If you’re anything like me, doing this will help you stay positive, maintain perspective, and motivate you to keep moving forward. Regardless of whether it takes you one time or ten to pass the exam, remember that each experience is an investment in your future and will only serve to benefit your career in the long run.

More questions? Check out IEDC’s FAQs here.