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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