Passing the CEcD Exam: Five Ps in Five Minutes

June 1, 2017

By: Ashton Allison, CEcD, consultant, TIP Strategies

The International Economic Development Council’s (IEDC) Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) program is the leading industry designation for demonstrating comprehensive mastery of the field. Having “CEcD” after your name puts you in a distinguished group of approximately 1,100 economic developers around the world, and shows you have the breadth and depth of knowledge to perform at the highest levels of the profession.

It’s a big step. If you’re planning to pursue your CEcD designation, you may be excited about a new challenge, yet daunted by the time commitment, financial investment, and pass rate statistics. As someone who stood in your shoes three years ago, I can tell you—you’re not alone in feeling this mix of emotions.

As I complete my first recertification this year, I’m reminded of a few tips that helped me along the way. While techniques vary based on personal preferences, I hope the following insights can assist you in crafting your own approach to preparing for the exam.

  1. Plan Ahead. First, ensure you will meet IEDC’s criteria by the time you sit for the exam. I recommend choosing an exam date that gives you at least six to eight months to prepare (unless you’re gifted at cramming). Create an action plan that’s tied to a calendar so that you cover all the material in a realistic amount of time. For me, this meant studying a few hours every night (including some weekends). Give yourself a two-week cushion in case you get behind. Finally, if possible, make plans to give yourself a full day of uninterrupted studying the day before the exam.
  2. Pick Others’ Brains. Networking with other CEcDs is a great way to develop professionally, learn what type of material might be on the exam, uncover tips to prepare, and find a mentor. IEDC offers a formal mentor matchmaking program for members. For more information, visit www.iedconline.org.
  3. Prepare. Some have called this program the “CPA” or “MBA” of the economic development field. There’s no way around it…you’ll need to spend a significant amount of time studying to give yourself the best chance of passing. Taking detailed notes during training courses, reading every manual (the answers are all in there), and enrolling in a practice course are all smart moves. Creating flash cards is also a great way to absorb and review the material.
  4. Practice. Remember, this is a timed test. It’s not only how much you know, but how quickly you can convey it. Many people who know the material are unable to pass because they haven’t practiced enough or don’t manage their time effectively during the exam. Create practice tests (with essay questions especially) and gradually increase your time constraints.
  5. Pat Yourself on the Back. Take a moment to commend yourself for making this important decision for your career. And as you make your way through the process, reflect regularly on the progress you’ve made. If you’re anything like me, doing this will help you stay positive, maintain perspective, and motivate you to keep moving forward. Regardless of whether it takes you one time or ten to pass the exam, remember that each experience is an investment in your future and will only serve to benefit your career in the long run.

More questions? Check out IEDC’s FAQs here.

State of Washington: Strengthening the Defense Industry

May 25, 2017

By: Alex Cooke, senior consultant, and Ashton Allison, consultant, TIP Strategies



Since 2006, TIP has been working in communities, regions, and states that are home to military installations and defense contractors. Many of our defense-community projects have been funded by assistance grants from the US Department of Defense’s Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). These grants help defense-dependent communities adjust to and plan for closures, reductions, or expansions at military installations or defense contractors. TIP’s work has included strategic analyses and planning focused on economic diversification, talent retention, target industries, and defense industry adjustment. The map above illustrates our engagements throughout the US.

TIP is partnering with management consulting firm Kepner-Tregoe for our current defense industry adjustment project, which builds on the success of three previous OEA-funded pilot projects in Washington State. This project will assist selected defense contractors in developing strategies to find new markets, secure new customers, improve processes, and enhance worker skillsets. The specific services participating companies will receive include an organizational health assessment, a strategy assessment and development assistance, an action plan, and follow-up support. Participants will be selected this month, and assistance will begin immediately, including a two-day in-person executive session. Managed by the Washington Department of Commerce, the goal of this project is to provide a framework for sustaining the health and vitality of the state’s defense-reliant economy amid defense spending uncertainty and variability. A final report will be produced, identifying key findings, recurring themes, and lessons learned. The report will also assess the transferability of these results to other firms in the Washington defense supply chain.

Fort Worth, Texas: Becoming a Global City

April 9, 2017

By: Jon Roberts, principal, and John Karras, senior consultant, TIP Strategies


What does it mean to be a global city? TIP has been pondering this question since we were engaged to lead a team of consultants charged with preparing a new strategy for the City of Fort Worth.

The question elicits different ideas for different people. For some, a global city is defined by its cultural assets: world-renowned museums, a ballet, the opera. For others, it’s a label reserved for cities that embrace a range of cultures, evidenced by the number of languages overheard on the street and the variety of cuisines reflected in the city’s dining options.

Compelling architecture, recognizable landmarks, and a robust transportation system are often cited as necessary conditions by urbanists, while industry specialization and employment opportunities would be top of mind for economists.

The question of image is also relevant here. At some level, does the “global city” designation require that we have some shared notion of the place, derived from a mix of history, film, and word-of-mouth? Paris instantly conjures specific images: the Eiffel tower, fine dining, fashion. There are other cities that have an equally long history or are similar in size or economic importance but have failed to find a place in our collective imaginations.

While there are volumes of research around this question—and no lack of opinions—we place emphasis on three areas: trade, talent, and tradition. By looking at the strength of the traded sector (this includes export-oriented industries that trade in physical goods as well as ideas), the ability to attract and retain creative individuals, and what it means to leverage the heritage of a community, we see the building blocks of a dynamic strategy.

Over the next several months, our team will be engaging community leaders around a vision for Fort Worth that encompasses these elements. While the city’s “Cowboys and Culture” tagline broadens the traditional appeal, there is much more at play. With assets such as Alliance Airport, Sundance Square, and a growing medical sector, the question for the city’s immediate future seems to be less about whether the community will be successful and more about what form that success will take. The longer-term focus then must be more directly on how Fort Worth—separate from Dallas or the rest of the region—can become a global city. Stay tuned to learn more about our work in Fort Worth.

East Kern County, California: Economic Diversification Plan

April 7, 2017

By: John Karras, senior consultant, TIP Strategies


Spanning more than 8,000 square miles of mountains, valleys, and desert landscapes, Kern County, California, encompasses a diverse group of communities and assets. Comprising more than 3,000 square miles—roughly one-third of the total—the county’s eastern portion is larger than the combined land mass of Delaware and Rhode Island. The region contains three incorporated cities (California City, Ridgecrest, and Tehachapi) and three unincorporated communities (Boron, Mojave, and Rosamond.) East Kern’s economy is driven primarily by two military installations (Naval Air Weapons Station-China Lake and Edwards Air Force Base) and the Mojave Air & Space Port and Rio Tinto Minerals. East Kern is also closely linked to the greater Los Angeles economy, especially the communities of Lancaster and Palmdale.

To help capitalize on its unique advantages, Kern County engaged TIP to lead the preparation of an economic diversification plan for East Kern County. Over the course of a 12-month planning process, TIP worked with Kern County and key partner organizations including the Kern Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and the East Kern Economic Alliance (EKEA) to create a bold and comprehensive set of strategies to accelerate economic development in East Kern. Chabin Concepts, a California-based economic development consulting firm, assisted TIP and Kern County throughout the project. The plan was recently featured at the 17th annual Kern County Economic Summit during a panel discussion with three of the region’s major employers: Naval Air Weapons Station-China Lake, Edwards Air Force Base, and Rio Tinto Minerals.

The plan calls for several new and aggressive initiatives to grow the regional economy. Some of the most promising strategies include:

  1. A targeted effort to work with the Mojave Air & Space Port to expand existing businesses and recruit new companies to the region, including aerospace product manufacturers, service providers, and research and testing firms.
  2. New partnerships with the region’s military installations, higher education institutions, and other stakeholders to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship activity.
  3. Packaging the region’s diverse menu of outdoor recreation and tourism assets to attract new visitors and talent into East Kern.

In addition to the regional diversification plan, TIP created strategic plans that respond to the unique opportunities and challenges facing each of the region’s six communities. The plan also formalizes the role of the East Kern Economic Alliance (a collaborative group of local economic development partners convened by the Kern EDC) and lays a foundation for additional resources for implementation. The Alliance is now working to pursue additional implementation funding from the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) to move these initiatives forward with dedicated staff. TIP is hopeful East Kern will follow a similar path of another client community that recently received OEA implementation funding: the Fort Campbell region of Tennessee and Kentucky.

Delaware: A New Growth Agenda

September 22, 2016

By: Alex Cooke, senior consultant, TIP Strategies

downtown-wilmington-delaware-and-the-christina-river-by-tim-kiser-via-wikimeda-commons-cc-by-sa-2-5

Image credit: Downtown Wilmington, Delaware and the Christina River by Tim Kiser Via Wikimeda Commons (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Last fall, TIP was engaged by the Delaware Business Roundtable (DBRT), a group of more than 50 Delaware CEOs, to craft a strategic framework for pursuing a new long-term approach to economic development in the state. The work was commissioned as a private-sector response to concerns about Delaware’s economy as the state struggles to contend with the dramatic restructuring of traditional industry clusters, increased competition for jobs and investment, and the lasting effects of the Great Recession. The final product, the Delaware Growth Agenda, was released by the DBRT in July.

The Growth Agenda’s recommendations grew, in part, out of discussions with dozens of business leaders and citizens throughout Delaware. One of its key recommendations is to establish a new public-private partnership to lead the state’s economic development efforts. This initiative is seen as critical to reengaging the private sector more directly in economic development and reinvigorating the state’s program through expanded resources, expertise, and networks. Additionally, the growth agenda calls for building on and accelerating existing initiatives to create a world-class entrepreneurship ecosystem in Delaware.

Additional information about the Delaware Growth Agenda is available through the DBRT’s website. The Delaware Business Times also detailed our work with the DBRT. Click here to read their article, “Delaware Growth Agenda: State must pursue new long-term approach to economic development over next five years.”

Kansas City: The Missouri Governor’s Conference

September 12, 2016

By: Jon Roberts, principal, TIP Strategies

MO Governor's Conference Banner
This month, Jon Roberts had the honor of providing the closing address at the 58th Annual Missouri Governor’s Conference on Economic Development in Kansas City. The three-day conference explored the themes of innovation and creativity, with a strong emphasis on technology and the arts. Jon’s presentation focused on the effects of disruptive technology in transportation, especially the advent of autonomous vehicles. A cameo can be seen in the video recap, which also provides a flavor of the event overall.

In addition to the Missouri Governor’s Office, a number of organizations had a prominent role in making the conference a success. Special mention goes to Department of Economic Development Director, Mike Downing, and the staff and leadership of the Missouri Partnership for their contributions to the event.

This year was Jon’s second appearance at the annual event, having been a featured speaker at the 2014 conference, along with Thomas Friedman of the New York Times. The repeat invitation was a distinct honor and reflects TIP’s long relationship with the State of Missouri. Examples of our work in the state include engagements in Jefferson City, Christian County, Iron County, and Columbia.

The conference also offered a chance for Kansas City to showcase its booming tech and arts districts. In fact, the city deserves special recognition for its commitment to innovation and creativity. For a community whose future was once far from certain, the city has made great strides in establishing itself as a major Midwestern technology hub. Kansas City’s progress is especially apparent in its success supporting young entrepreneurs and embracing the creative spaces they have re-developed in the downtown.

The growing role of downtown as a nexus of economic activity for the region is reflected in recent sales tax data from the Kansas City Finance Department. The data reveal that sales tax collections generated within the city’s streetcar taxing district, located in the heart of downtown, far outpaced the city’s overall growth rate, increasing by 58 percent from FY 2014 through FY 2016, compared with just 16 percent citywide. Officials point to new business growth, an increased number of downtown residents, and bigger crowds in the city’s Power & Light entertainment district. What is even more significant is the fact that the increased collections occurred even before the new streetcar line opened on May 6, 2016.
TIP’s interest and involvement in innovation districts and tech centers is central to our mission. Whether in smaller communities such as Asheville and Green Bay, or in larger cities such as Las Vegas and Seattle, we are committed to seeing talent recruitment and technology fuel economic growth. Kansas City fits that profile perfectly.