As noted earlier, a CEDS should serve as a means to engage community leaders, leverage the involvement of the private sector, and establish a strategic blueprint for regional economic collaboration.
However, a region does not have to develop a CEDS if a strategy has already been prepared or is being crafted for an alternate but complimentary purpose, for example, a regional sustainability plan. In the absence of an EDA-funded CEDS, and in an effort to reduce duplication and foster cross-agency collaboration, EDA may accept as a CEDS any regionally prepared plan, including plans prepared under federally or state supported programs. All that is required is that
- the alternate plan is current (developed or updated within the past five years and shows relevancy though actions such as public posting and/or active use)
- its preparation and contents address EDA’s regulations (13 C.F.R. § 303.7)
- the plan is consistent with these guidelines – containing at least a summary background, analysis, strategic direction/action plan, and an evaluation framework
- alternate plans should clearly define the area that the plan will serve and provide evidence of a robust participatory process (broad-based and inclusive community engagement)
Those plans submitted as a CEDS alternative or equivalent that are not accepted by EDA often lack one or more of the elements noted above. Many plans that are not accepted do not include a robust action/implementation plan (with well-defined priorities), or the plans may not have a sufficient evaluation framework (with clearly defined measures). The equivalent plan must also include a mechanism for regular updates and “check-ins” that will keep the strategies and activities outlined in the plan current, and ensure that the plan as a whole continues to be relevant.
When crafting a regional plan that will also serve as a CEDS alternative or equivalent that covers a geographic area already covered (in part) by one or more CEDS, those previously approved CEDS should be folded into (sometimes called “nesting”) the new plan. The existing plans and evaluation frameworks can be effectively used to strengthen the newer plan. At a minimum, the organization(s) (for example, the Economic Development District) that prepared the previously approved CEDS should be consulted. Including key elements from the previously approved CEDS will ensure that the larger regional plan continues to address more local needs and requirements.
One model of “nesting” is the statewide CEDS (EDA encourages regions to collaborate across regions and at the statewide level on CEDS plans). A number of states have (or are in the process of) rolling-up the work of their regions’ individual CEDS
- to more effectively address larger, cross-cutting needs and priorities or
- to attain benefits that accrue beyond regional boundaries and that may require economies of scale to implement.
Recommended Resource: See this example of a statewide CEDS: http://ceds.alabama.gov/. Examples of successful alignment between the CEDS and HUD’s Sustainable Communities Planning Grant include Central Minnesota: http://resilientregion.org/ and the Centralina region in the Charlotte area: http://www.centralinaedc.org/2012_CEDS_Update.php
It is critical that you begin the process of developing a regional plan that can also serve as a CEDS alternative document by engaging the appropriate EDA regional office and that region’s point-of-contact for your state (http://www.eda.gov/contact/).
The EDA regional office staff can help guide the process and ensure the new plans meet the basic requirements noted above. They also may be able to point out examples where such approaches have been undertaken successfully. Moreover, they may be able to help align schedules and increase coordination while preventing duplication in the development of multiple regional plans.
It should also be noted that EDA does not formally “approve” these alternate/equivalent plans. Rather, the EDA regional office will accept or deny the plan when the community or region applies for an EDA-funded project.