NADO Publishes Performance Metrics Best Practices Report Authored by VE

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This white paper shows how performance metrics can be used to create a more effective CEDS for a regional economy and meet NADO’s Seven Principles.


A Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) is more than a mandatory report for opening doors to federal funding, especially through the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA). It should be an opportunity to formulate effective strategies that transform a region’s economy by creating or retaining wealth and increasing prosperity.

However, too often a CEDS is perceived as a compilation of the region’s needs and wish list of proposed projects, without an analysis of the trends and conditions that impact a region’s current economic landscape and without assetbased strategies to improve these conditions. And too often, the CEDS focuses on the number of jobs created, while failing to recognize that not all jobs have equal value.

To foster meaningful economic development, the national network of 380 EDA-designated Economic Development Districts (EDDs) should strive for a more sophisticated approach to setting, measuring and meeting goals than simply counting job growth, which does not accurately determine whether a region is growing its economy in the right direction.

What is the “right” direction? It is job growth that is in balance with a comprehensive vision that leverages the unique assets of a regional economy. A balanced approach to economic development also focuses on wealth creation and retention, improving quality of place, fostering a climate of innovation, and growing overall regional prosperity. This is why job growth is only one metric used by ViTAL Economy in a broader, yet targeted set of indicators called performance metrics.

Growing the right kinds of jobs requires a region to set its community and economic development conditions in context. This involves understanding and measuring trends, defining the region’s current economic conditions, and establishing measurable goals. As every region is unique, each region should use tailored and slightly different measures. These metrics should address:

  • Which conditions are important?
  • Which trends need to be reversed?
  • Which assets are available to be leveraged?
  • How will a strategy help achieve the economic vision?

Examples of critical conditions hampering economic growth include high levels of poverty, low average wages, low educational attainment, out-migration of healthcare services, aging workforce, and below-average broadband demand/speed/access.

Taking the critical conditions into account, a growing number of regional economic development policy makers, practitioners, and stakeholders are adopting the necessary discipline to establish best practice performance metrics to guide their CEDS development, design, and implementation path.

To be effective, the CEDS cannot focus solely on what a region lacks or needs. It must also focus on a region’s unique assets and competitive advantages, as these will drive future economic success. To fully leverage a region’s unique tangible and intangible assets as the foundation for transformative economic strategies, it is vital for regions to benchmark current conditions, yet also set measurable S.M.A.R.T. goals to monitor progress and adjust strategies and tactics as needed.

This white paper discusses how performance metrics can be used to create a more effective CEDS for a regional economy. It includes real-life examples of how performance metrics have been used by various Economic Development Districts (EDDs) and other regions assisted by ViTAL Economy to address unique conditions and transform their region’s economic performance. It also demonstrates how performance metrics are the first critical step in creating meaningful strategies in a CEDS and how they can improve an economic region’s ability to meet the new NADO’s Seven Principles of CEDS Standards of Excellence (Appendix A).

“We will no longer think, think, think; we will think and act, and get results.”
Michael Aube, President
Eastern Maine Development Corporation