Performance Measurements for Success in Economic Development

by Lauren Duke,  IEDC Fellow

Success in economic development is measured differently by many different economic development organizations. While some publish the number of new jobs created, others emphasize business expansion successes or the number of businesses attracted within a time period. Because of these different approaches, the metrics of economic development remains an intriguing topic for practitioners and researchers. Economic development professionals Alia Abbas, Amanda St. John, and Brandon Webb set out to address this issue in their research, published in fulfillment of the Bright Ideas Competition of the Economic Developers Council of Ontario Conference. 

Their paper on  performance measurement provides an overview of new metrics and tools available to help economic developers measure the effectiveness of their work. By looking at current measurement practices, best practices, and the availability of already existing measurement tools, the researchers evaluated how economic development metrics are evaluated in a disaster recovery context. 

The onset of the pandemic has led many EDOs to begin the process of evaluating the impact of the economic recession on their communities. While traditional quantitative data may not yet be available, many EDOs have lacked a formalized plan addressing how to evaluate their communities. The performance measurement research outlines three stages of recovery: short term, intermediate-term, and long-term recovery and redevelopment, during which different performance metrics should be used to evaluate progress. 

In their findings, the authors outlined seven recovery metrics that EDOs can use to evaluate progress:

  1. Government Programs
  2. Employment and Unemployment
  3. Support for Startups and Entrepreneurship
  4. Trade
  5. Consumer Habits
  6. Construction/Development and House Projects
  7. Support for At-Risk Populations

By creating standards for success in each of these categories, EDOs can more accurately measure economic recovery and resilience in the face of disaster. Implementing these metrics prior to the onset of a disaster, such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, can ensure a more streamlined approach to performance measurement and disaster recovery.


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