Characteristics of an Effective Economic Development Officer

Smaller communities often hire a person from within the community to perform the duties of an economic development officer while larger communities usually have the resources to recruit an accredited economic development professional with considerable experience.  Much like hiring any other professional – a doctor, nurse, law enforcement officer or teacher – being from the community or having been raised in the community is not criteria for a position in economic development.  The credentials and experience of an economic development officer are skills which can be transferred and utilized in any community, anywhere in the country.  However, whether the community is looking to hire a local person or a fully trained economic development officer (EDO), there are some basic characteristics inherent to the position.  These include (but are not limited to):


  • Positive, optimistic attitude
  • Honest; personal integrity
  • Diplomatic; treats everyone with respect and dignity
  • Self motivated, goal oriented person
  • Excellent organizational and time management skills
  • Good understanding of finance, budgeting
  • Excellent people/public relations, communication and mediation/negotiation skills; adept at conflict management and resolution
  • Ability to network with communities, economic development professionals and a wide variety of other organizations (well beyond the scope of the local community)
  • Ability to work effectively with community leaders, diverse community groups and all levels of government
  • Ability to exercise sound judgment, often in the face of adversity
  • Comfortable and effective at public speaking and making presentations
  • Ability to research and analyze information from a wide variety of sources
  • Ability to analyze problems and seek out innovative solutions
  • Adept at fostering organizational and business development
  • Ability to prepare well thought out proposals and make recommendations
  • Marketing and salesmanship skills; ability to inspire and mobilize people
  • Basic understanding of land use planning, real estate development, zoning and municipal infrastructure
  • Good understanding of government and legislative processes
  • Total commitment and dedication to the profession of economic development – this is not and never will be a simple, ‘nine to five’ job..…‘after business hours’ meetings , an ever changing business and political environment and ongoing challenges  in economic development are inherent to the position
  • Most of all, the EDO must be an excellent facilitator


So you see, an effective economic development officer must have a wide variety of leadership characteristics and skills -  Very few people have the attitude, aptitude and commitment required for the demands of this type of work….Caution:  As a community leader, do not make the mistake of thinking that any employable person in your community could likely fill the role of economic development officer!


Submitted by:

Edie Spagrud, Ec.D.