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:

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.

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:

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

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:

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.

CEcD Profile: Devin Howland

Devin Howland, CEcD

Director of Economic Vitality

City of Fayetteville, Arkansas

 

Past Community: Central Arkansas Planning & Development District

CEcD Coursework: OU EDI

CEcD Since: September 2016

Time to CEcD: 10 months

What most surprised you about the certification process:

The support network around you through IEDC and through fellow CEcDs. It was a humbling experience, just going through and getting ready because I wasn’t alone in this.

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

Caring. And it’s that simple. To me this is not an eight to five job. I truly love what I do.

Advice:

You truly need to want this and you need to be willing to put in the time to absorb the material. This test isn’t easy. It’s not designed to be and it really wouldn’t have the value it does if it was easy.

Right before you take the test, take a week off work. I know that sounds crazy, but if you can take a week off work to do a full review of everything you’ve been studying, you’re going to be all right.

My advice is know the minutiae, know the whole manual. What I did was I did a lot of mind mapping and brain maps. I love those. They really helped me.

My final piece of advice would be, OU EDI, if you can go through their prep course and link up with those other people. If you have a network of people that are taking the test together, that’s great. Form study groups, that’s what we did.

Podcast Episode:

PCED Vs. CEcD

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:

 

  CEcD PCED
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.