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A bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce
Tools for Economic Development


Tools for Economic Development

Research Reports

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) partners with entities to develop and disseminate tools on new and emerging economic development concepts that practitioners and policymakers can utilize to make more informed development decisions.
EDA Tools for Economic Development (PDF)


Measuring Distress – A Resource for EDA Stakeholders

Developed by the Indiana Business Research Center, this tool provides practitioners a fast, simple way to calculate whether a county, region, or neighborhood may meet EDA eligibility thresholds for unemployment and income.


Know Your Region: A Template for Future Prosperity

The Know Your Region curriculum is designed to introduce practitioners and policymakers to best practices and proven techniques for applying new and emerging concepts into the regional strategic planning process to realize economic development goals. This curriculum is delivered by the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO) through face-to-face seminars and webinar series.

CEDS Content Guidelines

The CEDS Content Guidelines provide practical recommendations about the content and format of a CEDS that will result in an engaging, technically-sound strategy for guiding regional development.


Identifying Regional Clusters

EDA has invested in two distinct tools designed to help practitioners better identify their cluster assets. The first tool was developed by Purdue University and the Indiana Business Research Center to identify the industry and occupational clusters and related assets present in a user-defined geography (micro perspective), while the second tool was created by Harvard University’s Institute for Strategy and Competitiveness to identify the clusters driving the national economy (macro perspective). The Harvard cluster tool also provides a cluster registry where cluster organizations can find and connect with key organizations in their region to help advance cluster initiatives.

Calculating Innovation Capacity

The Innovation Index, created by the Indiana Business Research Center, provides practitioners an easy-to-compare method of assessing the innovation capacity of their region by providing the composite index of innovation inputs built upon data from four areas: human capital, economic dynamics, productivity and employment, and well-being.

Identifying and Supporting Venture Development Organizations

Created by the State Science and Technology Institute, the Regional Innovation Accelerator Network (RIAN) is designed to help identify existing venture development organizations (VDOs) and relevant best practices that VDOs can implement to advance economic development objectives.

Decide Among Competing Projects:

Calculating the Triple Bottom Line: Measuring the Social, Environmental, and Economic Impacts of Development Decisions

Created by Portland State University, this tool provides practitioners with information on the broad economic, social, and environmental impacts development decisions have in order to support more informed decision making.

Investment Analysis

This tool, created by Purdue University and the Indiana Business Research Center, provides practitioners tools to assist them in prioritizing projects.

Incubator Management Best Practices

Benchmark Your Incubator Management Practices and Access Tools for Continuous Improvement

Dedicated incubation professionals are always looking for ways to enhance their program's effectiveness and efficiency. This online tool, developed by the University of Michigan and based on research funded by EDA, provides incubator managers with the input they need to do just that. Using this tool, incubation practitioners can measure their program’s performance compared with the business incubation practices deemed most important to client success, as well as receive feedback on how to improve their program’s operations.


Research Reports

The Logic of Economic Development: A Definition and Model for Investment (PDF)

University of North Carolina
This paper starts by defining economic development and then considers the role of government, arguing that public policy should focus on building capacities that are beyond the ability of the market to provide. This shifts the debate towards a neutral role of government as a builder of capacities that enable economic agents, individuals, firms or communities to realize their potential.

EDA i6 Program: Assessment & Metrics (PDF)
EDA JIAC Program: Assessment & Metrics (PDF)

SRI International in collaboration with the University of North Carolina
The reports provide the results of field-based research that will permit expanded and more robust measures of capacity building for innovation-based firms, technical assistance providers, and start-ups. The reports also establish the role of government investments in creating and enhancing worker and firm capabilities and firm growth and competitiveness.

Making Connections, Evaluation Project to Assess Best Practices in EDA’s University Center Program

SRI International, 2014
An evaluation and collected data about EDA University Centers including best practices of University Center services and highlights of successes of each individual University Center.

Best Practices in State and Regional Economic Innovation Initiatives: Competing in the 21st Century

The National Academies Press, 2013
The goal of this study is to illustrate the approaches taken by a variety of highly diverse states as they confront the increasing challenges of global competition for the industries and jobs of today and tomorrow.

Best Practices in Foreign Direct Investment and Exporting Based on Regional Industry Clusters

Georgia Tech Enterprise Innovation Institute, 2013
Economic development practitioners need to understand ways to harness their resources more effectively to attract FDI and develop their export potential. This project profiles several useful examples for local communities that may want to introduce initiatives to promote exporting and FDI or already have launched such initiatives and want to make them more effective.

Incubating Success: Incubation Best Practices that Lead to Successful New Ventures

The University of Michigan
The purpose of this study is to test whether there is a causal relationship between business incubation practices and client firm success, particularly after these firms have moved out of - or graduated - from the incubation program. Using the results of this study, the research team also created a Web-based tool for incubation practitioners that measures their program's performance compared with industry best practices and provides feedback about how they can improve their performance, and a brochure that highlights the study's findings.

Creating Community and Economic Development Tools for Preserving Working Waterfronts and Waterways (PDF)

The Island Institute
The Economic Development Administration awarded a grant in the fall of 2011 to the Island Institute and six project partners to study working waterfront needs, challenges, and strategies for preservation.

The Innovative and Entrepreneurial University: Higher Education, Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Focus (PDF)

Department of Commerce, National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship (2013)
Read about how universities across the country are supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in order to strengthen the regional economy, create jobs and keep America competitive.