Industry Overview

Local economic development (LED) is a field with a long history in Canada. It continues to be an avenue for promoting local or regional development. LED professionals design and implement strategies, which are aimed at strengthening the economic performance and prosperity of cities and regions in which they work. Areas of concern include unemployment, poverty, and the workings of a viable local economy. Other issues involve the procurement of adequate public sector revenues to finance community services such as schools, roads, parks, public safety, and affordable housing.

The evolution of best practices in the field requires an understanding of the factors that drive economic growth and change in a region. Practitioners are required to formulate strategies, which aid in the wider processing and distribution of benefits. Increasingly, the focus for LED practitioners is on innovation as the primary driver of economic development. This emphasis on innovation has led to a greater focus on how the sustained health of the local economy depends on other local concerns such as education, environmental quality, cultural amenities, quality of life, and urban design. In recent years, attention to workforce development concerns has grown rapidly as the economy’s competitive strengths have shifted toward innovation, human capital, technology, and creativity. This all points to the requirement for a multidisciplinary curriculum which includes planning, economics, governance, organizational management, finance, marketing, communications and public relations, and innovation/entrepreneurship.

Professionals in the field of economic development (EDPs) design and implement strategies aimed at strengthening the economic performance and prosperity of cities and regions. EDPs work to redress problems of local and regional economic distress, unemployment, and poverty, as well as to ensure – through the workings of a viable local economy – sufficient public sector revenues to finance community services such as schools, roads, parks, public safety, and affordable housing. Approximately 80 percent of employment opportunities in LED are primarily in the public sector.

The economic development profession has dramatically transformed from its role of supplying information and managing deal transactions to facilitating local strategic and tactical planning. EDPs need to build expertise in strategy design and deployment processes, conflict resolution, and effective process management. Recent trends in this sector are focused on retaining talent, sustainable business development, entrepreneur and innovation, and downtown revitalization.