Sustainable Economic Development Strategies

The emergence of a sustainable economy will lead to significant changes in local, regional and state economic development strategies and practices. This shift represents a great opportunity for cities and regions that want to take advantage of it.


One of the purposes of the Sustainable Systems website is to assist cities, counties, regions, and states to anticipate and get ahead of this opportunity curve, based on the following premises:

  • Sustainable economic development strategies generate substantial economic and employment growth and sustainable business and community development by demonstrating that innovation, efficiency, and conservation in the use and reuse of all natural and human resources are the best ways to increase jobs, incomes, productivity, and competitiveness.
  • Sustainable economic development strategies are a highly cost-effective method of promoting renewable energy and clean technologies that protect the environment and help in preventing harmful impacts of climate change.
  • By launching sustainable economic development strategies based on technological innovation and resource efficiency, places can grow their economies, improve their standards of living, and expand businesses, jobs, and incomes.

Building a long-term sustainable economic development strategy is a complex undertaking. It requires strong and consistent leadership, bold vision and the appropriate level of resources. But if done well, it can lay the foundation for a new and higher level of prosperity – prosperity based on growing natural, social/human, and economic capital.

Phases of Work

Following a process that has worked in other places, a city, county, region, or state can develop and implement a Sustainable Economic Development Strategy by completing five phases of work.

  1. An Initial Consultation to establish the goals and objectives and the work plan for the strategy creation process.
  1. A Strategic Assessment and Opportunity Analysis of the area-wide economy, to identify its current direction, its strengths and weaknesses, and the opportunities and challenges for Sustainable Economic Development.
  1. Design of a Sustainable Economic Development Strategy that builds on the momentum that already exists and weaves together a set of Initiatives and to create a clear, coherent, easily understood, dynamic strategy, with a strong business model.
  1. Formulation of an Implementation Plan – including a system for monitoring progress – that addresses who is responsible for each Initiative, the timeline and milestones, the costs, the sources of potential revenues, and the processes for mid-course corrections.
  1. Initiation and, subsequently, full implementation of the Strategy and Implementation Plan.

Presentation on Sustainable Economic Development Strategies

For a much more extensive discussion of how a city, county, region, or state can proceed in creating a Sustainable Economic Development Strategy go to Sustainable Economic Development Strategy  by James Nixon and John Cleveland.

SED Best Practices