Integrating Economic Development Across the Federal Government

A project to help local governments more easily access federal economic development assistance


According to data from ICMA’s Economic Development 2014 Survey, more than two-thirds of local governments in the United States had the primary responsibility for economic development. While many other entities, including development corporations, chambers of commerce, regional organizations, citizen advisory boards, and public-private consortia also support economic development planning activities, it is often the local government agencies that have the primary responsibility for implementation.

Bringing jobs to the community, improving the local tax base, and maintaining or improving quality of life are the three most frequently cited goals of economic development in U.S. communities. While federal assistance for local economic development assistance is available, local stakeholders often don’t know how to identify or leverage programs to meet their economic development objectives.

Aligning and integrating federal economic-development programs constitutes a significant organizational challenge. Unlike most state governments, the U.S. federal government has no cabinet-level department of economic development. In fact, integrating what the federal government does to create the conditions for economic development nationwide with what states and localities do in their own jurisdictions to promote job creation directly has vexed policymakers for decades.

Recognizing the need for better integration, ICMA joined a consortium that is led by the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University and includes Jobs for the Future. This project was funded by a grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) in support of its Office of Economic Development Integration, which sought to coordinate economic development resources across federal agencies.

Since its creation in 1965, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) has remained the only United States federal agency whose sole mission is to support local and regional economic development. Throughout its history, EDA has consistently prioritized support for sustainable economic growth, including investments in strategic planning, regional collaboration, economic diversification and job creation.

EDA established the Division of Economic Development Integration (EDI) in 2016. With over 50 years’ experience supporting local and regional economic growth, including a historic track record of successful collaboration with a range of stakeholders (both public and private, federal and non-federal), the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) designated EDA as the federal government’s lead agency for the integration of federal economic development resources. Through EDI, EDA seeks to promote ALL of the federal government’s various economic development resources, and to facilitate the capacity of local and regional stakeholders to invest these in dynamic, innovative projects that can produce new employment opportunities, business expansion, and regional prosperity.


Specific goals of the project included:

  1. Build a comprehensive inventory from existing models and research additional content
  2. Provide noteworthy practices in collaboration and coordination across programs, identifying where positive confluences have led to accelerated recovery or expanded economic development
  3. Analyze and document the extent to which EDA’s CEDS meet the requirements established by other federal agencies for plans related to economic development activities and highlight any gap areas
  4. Provide recommendations for media and technology delivery channels to maximize usability by EDA staff, practitioners and communities. 

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