Elements of Economic Development

June 22, 2023 | By: Jacob Wilder, CAE

The pursuit of economic development lies at the core of cities and communities striving for prosperity, growth, and improved living standards. While the path to sustainable economic advancement is complex and multifaceted, it is driven by a set of key catalysts that shape the trajectory of municipalities and economies.

From investments in infrastructure and human capital to technological progress and globalization, these drivers fuel the engine of economic development. These elements establish grounds for innovation, entrepreneurship, and inclusive growth, fostering an environment ripe for quality growth. Below are some of the fundamental drivers of economic development. By understanding these drivers, business and real estate professionals can better understand the essential components that propel communities toward economic success.

Investment in infrastructure:

Developing and maintaining a robust infrastructure is crucial for economic development. This includes transportation networks, communication systems, power generation, water supply, and other essential facilities that support economic activities. Cities and states often lead the charge for this type of development. In commercial real estate, some local communities implement CIDs or Community Improvement Districts to aid in this type of development.

CIDs are geographically defined areas within a city or county where property owners agree to levy additional taxes or fees to fund targeted improvements and services within that specific district. CIDs are typically formed by businesses, property owners, or residents within a particular area who recognize the need for enhanced infrastructure, public safety, beautification, and economic development initiatives that go beyond the scope of what the local government provides.

Human capital development:

Investing in education and healthcare is vital for economic growth. Developing a skilled and healthy workforce improves labor productivity, innovation, and overall economic competitiveness. Local municipalities and state governments play a crucial role in investing in human capital development, which involves enhancing the skills, knowledge, health, and well-being of individuals in the community. This type of development includes, but is not limited to:

  • Education and Schools
  • Healthcare and Public Health Initiatives
  • Job Training and Vocational Programs
  • Entrepreneurship Support
  • Community Centers and Recreational Facilities
  • Adult Education and Lifelong Learning
  • Social Services
  • Collaboration with Educational and Research Institutions

Technological progress and innovation:

Advancements in technology drive economic development by enhancing productivity, creating new industries, and improving efficiency in existing sectors. Investments in research and development, fostering innovation, and promoting entrepreneurship are key drivers in this area.

Check out CRE Insight Journal’s 2022 Excellence in Tenant Care Award Winner, Tech Square, whose innovative approach to tenant care led to achievements in technological progress and innovation with their tenants and property visitors.

Access to financial resources:

Adequate access to financial resources is necessary for businesses to grow and invest. A well-functioning financial system, including banks, capital markets, and access to credit, facilitates economic development by providing funding for investments and entrepreneurship.

Sound governance and institutions:

Stable and transparent governance, along with well-functioning institutions, such as the consistent application of law, property rights protection, and efficient public administration, are crucial for attracting investments and ensuring a favorable business environment. As commercial real estate professionals, it is crucial that the real estate industry remain involved in local, state, and federal advocacy. Check out these resources from CRE Insight Journal about being an advocate for the real estate industry.

International trade and globalization:

Engaging in international trade and participating in the global economy can stimulate economic development. Access to larger markets, foreign investment, and specialization based on comparative advantage can all drive economic growth.

Access to markets and entrepreneurship:

Developing efficient market structures, reducing barriers to entry, and fostering entrepreneurship encourage competition, innovation, and productivity growth. Enabling small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to thrive is particularly important, as they play a significant role in job creation.

As cities and states drive these keys to economic development, commercial real estate professionals should remain informed and involved in these efforts to support a vibrant business and real estate climate.

Natural resources and sustainable development:

Municipalities and states with abundant and well-managed natural resources can leverage them for economic development. Sustainable utilization of resources, responsible environmental practices, and a focus on renewable practices contribute to long-term growth and economic stability.


Economic Development Presentation from Samir Abdullahi with Select Fulton

To stay up to date on news and resources such as this and other topics of importance to the real estate industry, subscribe to the free CRE Insight Journal Newsletter using this link.