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Data-Driven Economic Development

Data-driven economic development ensures strategic, proactive, and comprehensive development that focuses on a city’s existing assets. By quantitatively mapping the city’s assets—its industry clusters, natural capital, educational resources, talent and workforce, local supply chains, and exports—city leaders can make more informed development decisions. This initial data-driven survey of a city’s economy not only exposes the “gap” areas in need of targeted investment, but also allows leaders to make decisions based on data rather than political pressure.


An asset map creates a topography of the local economy, and often simply requires aggregating already collected government data. This map includes an assessment of the city’s major industries by employment and sales, critical industries according to location quotient, the firms that dominate these industries, and the value flows among these firms. Additionally, the asset map reveals the key indicators of the city’s economic health: educational pipelines, investments, infrastructure, business performance, and public impact.


Data-driven economic development additionally informs the smart cultivation and strengthening of the key development areas. These three key development areas—human capital, economic clusters, and local supply chains—ensure that the city’s economic growth is being captured locally. Intelligent investment in human capital development requires building a system that is relevant and responsive to local employers and more accessible to and supportive of working adults and their families. Data-driven human capital investment also focuses on supporting family sustaining jobs instead of subsidizing low road employers. Data-driven economic development helps identify and target investment to clusters of related companies in a given industry which are important to the city’s economy and competitive advantage. Finally, this research reveals how to best identify and encourage localizing the supply of economic clusters within the city, ensuring increased local capture of economic growth.

Sustainable Connections: Linking Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies, National League of Cities, January 1st, 2014. Read more.

The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development, Christiana McFarland and Katie Seeger, January 1st, 2014. Read more.

Government’s Role in the Economy: Making the Case, Demos Center for the Public Sector, January 1st, 2014. Read more.

Real Economic Development: Early Childhood Intervention on a Large Scale, Arthur J. Rolnick and Rob Grunewald, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, June 1st, 2013. Read more.

Virginia Beach GrowSmart Program Wins National Innovation Award, Karen Kehoe, April 11th, 2013. Read more.

Building a Stronger Commonwealth: The Business Case for Investing in Pennsylvania’s Youngest Learner, ReadyNation, April 9th, 2013. Read more.

Detroit Future City, Toni Griffin, January 16th, 2013. Read more.

Minneapolis – Saint Paul Regional Business Plan, Cecile Bedor, January 16th, 2013. Read more.

Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Business Planning, Kathleen Lee, January 16th, 2013. Read more.

Regions Charting New Directions: Metropolitan Business Planning, Robert Weissbourd, January 16th, 2013. Read more.

Invest in Early Childhood Development: Reduce Deficits, Strengthen the Economy, James Heckman, December 7th, 2012. Read more.

Walk this Way:The Economic Promise of Walkable Places in Metropolitan Washington, D.C., Christopher B. Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo, Brookings Institution, May 25th, 2012. Read more.

America’s Tomorrow: Equity is the Superior Growth Model, Sarah Treuhaft, Angela Glover Blackwell, and Manuel Pastor, Program for Environmental and Regional Equality, November 1st, 2011. Read more.

San Antonio and its Municipal Utility Join Forces to Establish a Clean Technology Cluster, Robert Crowe, Selection Magazine, September 1st, 2011. Read more.

Economic Development Strategy: Two Year Status Report, Portland Development Commission, July 1st, 2011. Read more.

Job Creation on a Budget: How Regional Industry Clusters Can Add Jobs, Bolster Entrepreneurship, and, Mark Muro and Kenan Fikri, Brookings, January 19th, 2011. Read more.

How Portland Sold Its Banks on Walkable Development, Noah Kazis, Streets Blog, May 25th, 2010. Read more.

Growing Economic Gardens, Emily Vines , American City and County, April 1st, 2010. Read more.

Fiscal Challenges Facing Cities: Implications for Recovery, Mark Muro and Christopher Hoene, November 1st, 2009. Read more.

Industrial Strategies for Distressed Urban Economies, Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, September 1st, 2009. Read more.

 Development, FutureWorks,
 and Impresa
, March 15th, 2009. Read more.

Long-Run Economic Effects of Early Childhood Programs on Adult Earnings, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Katherine Magnuson, and Jane Waldfogel, Partnership for America's Economic Success, February 20th, 2009. Read more.

New Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth (DeLEG) Officially Opens for Business Today DeLEG, Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, December 29th, 2008. Read more.

Beyond Rubinomics, Jeff Madrick, The Nation, December 23rd, 2008. Read more.

Making it Green in Minneapolis St. Paul, CDC Associates, CDC Associates, April 1st, 2008. Read more.

Energizing Prosperity, George Sterzinger, Economic Policy Institute, March 3rd, 2008. Read more.

LISC/MetroEdge uncovers $2 billion in retail potential in NCP communities, Ed Finkel, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, June 22nd, 2006. Read more.

A Year Building the Green Economy, Apollo Alliance. Read more.

Portland Economic Development Strategy Clusters, City of Portland, OR. Read more.

Ask Professor James Heckman, The Heckman Equation Project. Read more.

A recent asset map conduct by the Newark Alliance in New Jersey highlights how Newark’s industries inclusion transportation, health, education, and retail are all clustered and proposes a development strategy based on the clustering.


San Antonio, TX – which has been hailed as a “recession-proof city” – has anchored its local economy around education, medicine, biosciences, local government, and the military. Combined, these industries make up one third of the workforce. The city continues to target investment in these industries based on this asset map.


The Seattle Jobs Initiative provides a road map for not only linking job training to the local economy, but also details how to ensure the city is developing good, family-sustaining jobs. So far they have placed 6,000 workers in living wage jobs.


The Portland Economic Development asset map highlights how a city can focus its development around creating a green economy.


Mariah Young-Jones