Economic development means different things to different people. On a broad scale, anything a community does to foster and create a healthy economy can fall under the auspice of economic development. Today’s economic development professionals are trying harder than ever to define their field in terms that are more concrete and salient to policymakers, the public, and other professionals. There are probably as many definitions for economic development as there are people who practice it. Below is CALED’s definition as published in the Economic Development Handbook:
From a public perspective, local economic development involves the allocation of limited resources – land, labor, capitol and entrepreneurship in a way that has a positive effect on the level of business activity, employment, income distribution patterns, and fiscal solvency.
It is a process of deliberate intervention in the normal economic growth by making it easier or more attractive. Today, communities in California are giving attention to what they can do to promote fiscal stability and greater economic development.
Economic development is a concerted effort on the part of the responsible governing body in a city or county to influence the direction of private sector investment toward opportunities that can lead to sustained economic growth. Sustained economic growth can provide sufficient incomes for the local labor force, profitable business opportunities for employers and tax revenues for maintaining an infrastructure to support this continued growth. There is no alternative to private sector investment as the engine for economic growth, but there are many initiatives that you can support to encourage investments where the community feels they are needed the most.
It is important to know that economic development is not community development. Community development is a process for making a community a better place to live and work. Economic development is purely and simply the creation of wealth in which community benefits are created. There are only three approaches used to enhance local economic development. They are:
- Business Retention and Expansion – enhancing existing businesses
- Business Expansion – attracting new business
- Business Start-ups – encouraging the growth of new businesses