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New CEDS guidelines emphasize equity, broadband, climate resilience, and workforce development

July 13, 2023
By: Casey Nemecek

The Economic Development Administration (EDA) has updated its Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) Content Guidelines, effective April 2023. CEDS are strategy-driven plans for economic development prepared through a regionally owned planning process. Designed to build regional capacity and economic resilience, an active CEDS is a prerequisite for EDA designation as an Economic Development District (EDD), which serves as the main conduit through which TBED organizations may seek funding from EDA’s Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance program.

These updates, focusing on broadband, climate resilience, equity, and workforce development, signal EDA’s policy priorities and its vision for robust regional economic development strategies. The CEDS Content Guidelines serve as a supplemental resource for regions preparing or updating their CEDS plan. They also can be a useful tool for any organization going through the strategic planning process. Besides outlining EDA’s expectations for the required sections of a CEDS (background summary, SWOT analysis, strategic direction and action plan, and evaluation framework), the Content Guidelines provide recommendations on preparing each section and offer links to suggested tools, resources, and examples of best practices.

The 2023 updates address the following areas:

  • Equity: With equity as its top priority, EDA partnered with the New Growth Innovation Network (NGIN) to update its recommendations for embedding equity and inclusive economic development strategies into each part of the CEDS. NGIN compiled additional ideas and approaches for enabling equitable and inclusive growth as part of their new resource, Elevating Equity in Economic Development: An Inclusive Recovery Toolkit, which includes examples of strategy implementation from EDDs across the country.
  • Broadband: The guidance for conducting a regional SWOT analysis now includes updated language on assessing current capacity gaps in a region’s digital infrastructure.
  • Climate resilience: The updated guidelines emphasize the importance of anticipating and preparing for climate change. It suggests ways a region can leverage new opportunities focused on environmental sustainability and provides recommendations on framing the issue to engage a broader audience who may not typically prioritize climate resilience as an economic development strategy.
  • Workforce development: This topic has an expanded and dedicated section in the Content Guidelines. It underscores the role of sectoral partnerships in ensuring workforce development efforts are coordinated and aligned across stakeholders and industries. The section also reviews the characteristics of good, high-quality jobs, as defined by the Department of Commerce and the Department of Labor.   
  • Opportunity Zones: The EDA has removed this section from the Content Guidelines. SSTI has previously written about concerns regarding the program’s effectiveness. 

There are currently over 400 EDDs across the country, each with a CEDS that must be updated every five years. As such, your region is likely going through the process of updating its CEDS or preparing one for future EDD designation. Participating in the CEDS process offers a valuable opportunity to stay informed about your region’s economic development initiatives, forge connections with new partners, and contribute to developing your region’s strategic plan, ensuring that your tech-based economic development strategies are represented and strategically aligned with regional priorities.

To learn more about the CEDS and its implications for your region, we recommend exploring resources such as the National Association of Development Organizations’ CEDS Central and Economic Development District Map and Argonne National Library’s National Economic Resilience Data Explorer. More information about the CEDS and the Content Guidelines can be found on EDA’s website.

This article was prepared by SSTI using Federal funds under award ED22HDQ3070129 from the Economic Development Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce. The statements, findings, conclusions, and recommendations are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Economic Development Administration or the U.S. Department of Commerce.

eda, strategic plan, economic development