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.

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

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!!

Economic Development Certification Checklist

There are many requirements to fulfill while preparing to take the Economic Development Certification exam. In addition to the mandatory experience and classes there are also two avenues (IEDC or OU EDI) in which to complete this coursework, as explored in Nuts and Bolts of Achieving Your Economic Development Certification. Although similar, both institutes have different requirements in order to prepare you to take the exam.

Below is a checklist that outlines all of the requirements and gives a side by side comparison of the requirement from both institutes.

Economic Development Certification Checklist


There are multiple certifications that economic developers can choose to pursue. The Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) is a designation through the International Economic Development Council and is the main certification that most pursue. In addition, the Professional Community & Economic Developer (PCED) designation is offered through the Community Development Institute. Lastly, some economic developers choose to achieve their EDFP from the National Development Council.  This blog post is going to focus on comparing the CEcD and PCED designations.

In March, I was able to attend the Community Development Institute’s (CDI) Year 1 course in the Woodlands of Texas. CDI has four different regions, each with its own (1) week of classes every year. These regions include Central (Arkansas), Midwest (Illinois), Northwest (Idaho), and Texas. For those of you thinking about attending this class, I definitely recommend it!

The whole week was full of informative overview classes lead by experienced economic developers and consultants. We also participated in a community development simulation and, most importantly, networked with a large crowd of peers. This was a four-day class that filled up the better part of each day. Some of the classes included Community Development Principles, Community Infrastructure, Strategic Visioning & Planning, Identifying and Developing Stakeholders, Leaders, & Volunteers, Economic Development Incentives, and Real Estate in Community Development.

One of my favorite aspects of CDI is that it really creates a community. There are plenty of group projects to share ideas and get to know your classmates, and breaks and meals to bond with CDI students of all levels. Also, the instructors were very knowledgeable and also have proven to be helpful contacts and mentors in the field.

Here are the differences between the process of attaining each certification:


Full Time ED Experience Required to Sit for Exam 4 years 3 years
Coursework IEDC or OU EDI Classes 3 week-long sessions
Exam Eligibility IEDC (4 core classes and 2 electives)

OU (117 course credits and 45 credits from OU EDI – a week long session)

8 points (3 of which are from coursework, the others are from experience)
Exam Part 1: Multiple choice, short answer, essay

Part 2: Interview by panel of economic developers

Multiple choice questions divided into 2 parts: (1) CDI Handbook (2) 3 case studies
Recertification Every 3 years – remain active in the field and participate in ED professional development activities Every 3 years – achieve 8 more points from the time of your last certification


In choosing a certification to pursue, one should decide what he or she is most interested in learning and mastering. If you are looking for more of an emphasis on economic development, then contemplate the CEcD. If you desire a more general view of community and economic development, then try to pursue the PCED. You will find that both certifications are worthwhile and that you learn different coursework in each.

Have you decided which certification avenue to take? Please share in the comments which certification(s) you have or are currently pursuing and why you made the decision to attain that particular designation.

Nuts and Bolts of Achieving Your Economic Development Certification

I think every economic developer should be certified, work at it, get it, because it is a mark that you’re a professional in the field. – Steve Jenkins

So for those who need directions, here is the road map to navigate the CEcD process. In order to be eligible to take the test, you must have completed four years of full time work in economic development. While you get the necessary work experience, you can take the required classes. There are two ways to take these classes: through IEDC or the University of Oklahoma (OU) Economic Development Institute (EDI).

If you choose the IEDC classes, you must complete the four core classes and at least two electives before sitting for the exam. The core classes are

  • Basic Economic Development,
  • Business Retention & Expansion,
  • Economic Development Credit Analysis, and
  • Real Estate Development & Reuse.

There are many different electives that you can choose from, ranging from Economic Development Marketing & Strategy to Entrepreneurial and Small Business Development Strategies to Workforce Development. These classes are two or three days long depending on the topic and are held at various locations.

Here is the cost breakdown for pursuing the certification through IEDC:

Course Registration (5 courses at $450 + 1 course credit at $550)        = $2,805

Travel & Lodging (6 courses + exam at $800)                                           = $5,610

Exam Application                                                                                         = $495

Total                                                                                                              = $8,900


Should you choose to go the Oklahoma University route instead to complete your exam prerequisites, the program requirements include 117 course credits, which you can take either in person or in online classes. You also must complete an additional 45 credits through attending one OU Economic Development Institute session, which is a five-day interactive class. OU EDI also offers a review course that prepares you for the exam. It is recommended that even people who do the IEDC classes should take this review course.

Here’s an estimate of what it will cost to prepare for the certification through OU EDI if you take advantage of the IEDC member early bird rates:

1 Week-Long Institute                                                                                     = $1,650

Travel & Lodging for Institute                                                                        = $750

4 Online Classes                                                                                              = $2,380

4 Manuals, including Shipping Costs                                                            = $250

CEcD Review Course                                                                                       = $625

Exam Application                                                                                            = $495

Total                                                                                                                  = $5,400


Lastly, one of the newest requirements is attending “A Primer to the CEcD Exam Process: What You Need to Know”. This informational meeting gives you the exact details of the exam and a few sample questions. You also observe a mock interview, which is part two of the exam. This two hour info session is actually very informative and valuable. I sat in on it very early in my process to become certified, which gave me a great idea of what to expect and prepare for. If you’re a planner like me, you should definitely plan on attending ASAP.

There you have it – that’s the checklist to prepare you for the CEcD exam.

To Be(come Certified) or Not To Be(come Certified) – That is the Question for Economic Developers

“[The] certification is a point of pride for, I think, all of the people who have taken it and successfully completed the steps toward certification.” – Jeffrey Finkle, President & CEO of the International Economic Development Council


The most vital question of those who decide to attain their Economic Development Certification is: “Is this long, challenging certification process something that I truly wish to pursue?” While most economic developers ask themselves this question, very few decide to strive for this designation. In fact, in the International Economic Development Council, the largest economic development membership organization in the world, only 25% of their 5,000 members have their certification. Why is it that so few actually become certified?

While it is not a requirement to be certified in order to practice economic development, there are benefits to furthering your knowledge of the field in this way. First, being certified gives you a stamp of professionalism. It shows that you have gained the necessary knowledge to successfully practice economic development. Second, you become more marketable, which can help both you and your organization. Many economic development job openings state a preference for a certified economic developer, but even if it doesn’t request this, the certification places you ahead of your peers who lack the achievement. Having this designation also sets your organization apart because having a certified economic developer employed implies a greater knowledge of the field and, potentially, could attract more business to your company through added trust in your abilities. Finally, according to IEDC, economic developers who are certified tend to make more money.

With all of these benefits of achieving a certification, why is it that so many choose to not pursue it? One reason could be the low pass rate. On average, only 33% of economic developers who take the exam pass. Another reason could be that many enter the field later in life and don’t desire more school. Others could feel like they’re doing fine in the field and the opportunity cost for the certification just isn’t beneficial due to time, money, or where they are in their career already. But it does make one wonder why other fields require a certification (such as the CPA and Bar exams) to achieve a stamp of professionalism in order to perform their job and why economic development does not follow suit. But stay tuned, that is a question for another day.