Planner Speak: What exactly is economic development?

You’ve probably heard about decisions that were made, policies that were adopted, money that was spent, of land that was purchased in hopes of spurring economic development, but what exactly is economic development?

Economic development (n.) is actions that communities take to improve the economy and people’s well-being. Economic development can involve:

  • supporting existing businesses;
  • helping new businesses get started;
  • training or recruiting people for jobs;
  • making sure spaces are available for new businesses; and
  • making sure infrastructure that businesses need is in place.


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One part of Chattanooga’s infrastructure that community leaders hope will support new businesses and jobs is gigabit-per-second internet. Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke has put forward the idea of creating an “innovation district” to build upon the fast, cheap internet service. The district would bring companies that develop technology and conduct research to a central location where they can work together and have easy access to housing and services like restaurants.

Why do communities get involved with economic development? Some of the goals include keeping jobs in the area, bringing more jobs to the area, bringing in more tax money, keeping the economy stable, increasing the amount of products and services the community is able to produce for itself and sell to other areas,  keeping money in the community, and reducing poverty. 

Who is responsible for economic development? Quite often governments, non-profit organizations, and private companies work together on economic development projects. The redevelopment of Downtown Chattanooga and the riverfront is a good example of public-private partnership. The government, non-profits, and private companies worked together to plan, pay for, and build the development that we see today, including the Tennessee Riverpark, the Tennesse Aquarium, and the many hotels and businesses.


To learn more about some of the agencies and organizations that are working on economic development for our area, check out the links below:

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