Master of Urban Planning

Local & Regional Economic Development

Professionals in the field of economic development design and implement strategies aimed at strengthening the short- and long-run economic performance and prosperity of cities and regions. They work to redress problems of local and regional economic distress, unemployment, and poverty, as well as to ensure--through the workings of a viable local economy--sufficient public sector revenues to finance community services such as schools, roads, parks, public safety and affordable housing.

Early approaches to local economic development in the United States emphasized a kind of boosterism, the marketing and "sale" of the community to relocating firms, potential investors, tourists and residents. Modern versions of the booster approach join active place marketing campaigns with the use of financial inducements to attract relocating firms. The use of business location incentives (tax breaks, cash grants, etc.) by cities and states, while very common, is highly controversial. It is the focus of much academic research as well as policy debate.

Today, best practice in economic development begins by understanding the factors that drive economic growth and change in a particular region and then formulates strategies that aid the process and distribute the benefits more widely. Increasingly, the focus is on innovation as the primary driver of economic development in the long run, and especially its spatial characteristics and the role of local institutions in supporting it. Many cities and states have formulated extensive technology-based economic development strategies, usually in concert with more traditional economic development approaches. The focus on innovation has led to a greater emphasis on how the sustained health of the local economy depends on other local concerns, such as education, environmental quality, cultural amenities and quality of life, and urban design. In recent years, attention to workforce development concerns has grown rapidly as the U.S. economy's competitive strengths have shifted toward innovation, human capital, technology, and creativity.

Disciplinary Specializations


A major factor differentiating how various academic disciplines approach the topic of economic development the geographical scale of focus. Economic development as taught in the discipline of economics focuses on national-level trends, theory and issues, usually with an emphasis on newly industrializing countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America, as well as transitioning economies in post-Soviet east central Europe. Cross-national and comparative research is common. In contrast, state, local and regional economic development--usually taught within professional schools and departments of planning and public policy--focuses on economic theory, policy and practice at various levels below the nation-state (cities, metropolitan areas, rural communities, and multi-state regions) in the United States and abroad.

Career Tracks


Students with a Master of Urban Planning and specialized training in the area of economic development may pursue a variety of professional tracks. Different tracks often reflect academic sub-specialities in the field. They also may overlap with related fields such as community development, housing, and transportation.


Professional Track or Focus Types of Hiring Agencies & Organizations
Economic analyst, strategic planner Regional planning organizations, state development agencies, regional Federal Reserve banks, consultancies, supra-regional organizations (e.g., Appalachian Regional Commission, Tennessee Valley Authority), federal agencies (e.g., U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Management and Budget, Congressional Budget Office), industry associations, university extension programs, and non-profit advocacy organizations.
Local economic developer County and municipal government, chambers of commerce, state development agencies, and regional development agencies and organizations.
Development finance specialist County and municipal governments, state development agencies, community development corporations (CDCs), venture capital firms, and consultancies.
International development specialist Federal agencies, consultancies, international organizations (e.g., World Bank, USAID, International Monetary Fund). Note: These positions often require substantial advanced training in economics or finance, or joint degree training in planning/business, planning/law, or planning/economics.
Workforce development specialist State employment security agencies, local workforce development boards, federal agencies, consultancies, and community colleges.

Relationship to Community Development


There is considerable overlap between the fields of economic development and community development, as manifested in the emerging field of community economic development. The two fields are often distinguished by their geographical focus (economic development at the metropolitan or regional scale and community development at the neighborhood level) or by their most common units of analysis or policy intervention. In economic development, the latter is frequently firms or industries. In community development, the policy or program focus is often the individual or family. Such distinctions, however, are valid only in very general terms. Anyone interested in pursuing a career in local and regional economic development should also acquire knowledge of community development issues and interventions, along with other areas of planning practice, including transportation, land use, and real estate.

Faculty


Faculty contributing courses especially relevant to local and regional economic development include Mary Edwards, Marc Doussard, Edward Feser, Stacy Harwood, Geoffrey Hewings, and Craig Rost.

Course Track Recommendations by Predominant Professional Focus


The following are a set of recommended course tracks or suggested substantive specializations for MUP students with slightly varying professional interests within the economic development field. Three courses form the core of the economic development planning offerings at UIUC: UP 407 (State and Local Public Finance), UP 445 (Economic Development Planning), and UP 494-CR (Economic Development Workshop). A specialized curriculum can be built by adding additional courses in various theoretical, methodological, and substantive areas.


Local & Regional Economic Development Planning
Highly Recommended
Suggested
UP 407 (4 hrs) State and Local Public Finance BADM 445 (4 hrs) Small Business Consulting
UP 445 (4 hrs) Economic Development Planning UP 474 (4 hrs) Neighborhood Planning
UP 455 (4 hrs) Economic Development Workshop FIN 444 (3-4 hrs) Urban Real Estate Valuation
ACE/UP 552 (4 hrs) Regional Development Theory FIN 445 (3-4 hrs) Real Estate Investment
    ACE/UP 553 (2 hrs) Topics in Regional Development
    ACE/UP 554 (2 hrs) Fed Programs & Reg Development
    ACE/UP 555 (2 hrs) Economic Impact Analysis
    GEOG/UP 556 (4 hrs) Regional Science Methods


Applied Economic Development Research & Analysis
Highly Recommended
Suggested
UP 407 (4 hrs) State and Local Public Finance UP 455 (4 hrs) Economic Development Workshop
UP 445 (4 hrs) Economic Development Planning UP 519 (4 hrs) Advanced Applications of GIS
UP 418 (4 hrs) GIS for Planners ACE 411 (3-4 hrs) Environment & Development
ACE/UP 552 (4 hrs) Regional Development Theory ACE/UP 554 (2 hrs) Fed Programs & Reg Development
ACE/UP 553 (2 hrs) Topics in Regional Development    
ACE/UP 555 (2 hrs) Economic Impact Analysis    
GEOG/UP 556 (4 hrs) Regional Science Methods    

Development Finance
Highly Recommended
Suggested
UP 407 (4 hrs) State and Local Public Finance UP 445 (4 hrs) Economic Development Planning
UP 455 (4 hrs) Economic Development Workshop UP 474 (4 hrs) Neighborhood Planning
FIN 444 (3-4 hrs) Urban Real Estate Valuation UP 473 (4 hrs) Housing & Urban Policy Planning
FIN 445 (3-4 hrs) Real Estate Investment ACE/UP 553 (2 hrs) Topics in Regional Development
    ACE/UP 554 (2 hrs) Fed Programs & Reg Development
    ACE/UP 555 (2 hrs) Economic Impact Analysis

Community Economic Development
Highly Recommended
Suggested
UP 407 (4 hrs) State and Local Public Finance FIN 444 (3-4 hrs) Urban Real Estate Valuation
UP 455 (4 hours) Economic Development Workshop FIN 445 (3-4 hrs) Real Estate Investment
UP 474 (4 hrs) Neighborhood Planning UP 445 (4 hrs) Economic Development Planning
UP 473 (4 hrs) Housing & Urban Policy Planning ACE/UP 553 (2 hrs) Topis in Regional Development
    ACE/UP 554 (2 hrs) Fed Programs & Reg Development
    ACE/UP 555 (2 hrs) Economic Impact Analysis