Economic Development Resource Center


Below are introductions to common economic tools that finance officers may encounter. These documents describe the tools, how they are used, questions you should ask when the tools are proposed, and provide links to other resources should you need more details.

State, county and municipal governments often seek to improve local economic conditions by working with private sector entities. In general terms, economic development consists of the following steps:

  • Create a Vision and Plan.  A unit of government must identify its goals, like employment opportunities for residents, or a better quality of life. It should also identify the broad strategies it will use, as well as the limits it will observe. As part of this step, a government’s finance and economic development staff should work together to form a partnership.
  • Find Opportunities. By using incentives and other tools, a government can create conditions or an environment that helps to promote economic development; thereafter, the most cost-effective opportunities can then be selected.
  • Do the Deal. Economic development projects often require a formal contractual agreement with private sector entities. After the deal is signed, the vision must be implemented.
  • Monitor & Adjust. Economic development projects are often complex with many uncertainties. Therefore, progress must be carefully managed and course corrections should be applied as the project unfolds.


GFOA Best Practices and Advisories

GFOA has identified the following best practices related to Economic Development.

Create a Vision and Plan

Find Opportunities

Do the Deal

  • Negotiating Economic Development Agreements. Economic development agreements should clearly define expected benefits and establish a linkage between the incentives offered by a unit of government and the performance achieved by a particular project.
  • Administering Economic Development Agreements. GFOA recommends governments take steps to ensure effective administration of economic development agreements through an on-going assessment of government benefits, monitoring of commitments and requirements, and communicating progress to the governing body.






Other Links

ICMA Knowledge Network for Economic Development

International Economic Development Council

Economic Development Division of the American Planning Association

The Council of Development Finance Agencies