Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit


Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies

A CEDS is “a strategy-driven plan for regional economic development.” The U.S. Economic Development Association (EDA) — a Bureau within the U.S. Department of Commerce — oversees the CEDS development program. Regional planning offices create CEDS to develop recommendations for a more prosperous and resilient regional economy. To receive funding from the U.S. Economic Development Association (under its Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Programs), a region must comply with CEDS requirements, and update its Strategy every five years.

In the development of a CEDS, a planning agency will typically try to engage with all levels of the community, including, but not limited to: community leaders, the public sector, the private sector, applicable Native American Tribes, nonprofits, small businesses, and more.See footnote 1 The purpose of the CEDS is to put in place action plans across a variety of sectors that will ensure that the economy of the region remains resilient and functional, even during disaster events. Often, they will reference and/or incorporate other state or local plans into the strategy’s action items.

In addition, any CEDS must also contain economic resilience strategies, either incorporated throughout or identified as specific action items. These strategies must take into account “the ability to avoid, withstand, and recover from economic shifts, natural disasters, the impact of climate change, etc.”See footnote 2 Generally, the most effective CEDS infuse the concept of economic resilience — and how to adapt the economy to climate impacts — throughout the CEDS report.

Communities and areas with regional CEDS plans in place take climate impacts into account and develop strategies to mitigate the damage these impacts may have on the area’s economy. As a result, businesses and regions in general in areas where a CEDS is implemented are (1) better able to recover quickly from a shock; (2) better able to withstand a shock; and (3) in some instances, better able to avoid a shock altogether.

Considerations of Comprehensive Economic Development Strategies for Economic Resilience


  • Preparation of a CEDS document requires local funding, and “depend[s] on local circumstances, the organization’s staff capacity, and the level of resources of the region.”See footnote 3
  • Once a CEDS document is submitted and accepted by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the region is eligible for the Administration’s Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance funding, as well as other infrastructure and technical assistance grants.See footnote 4 


  • Guidelines regarding the creation of CEDS reports explicitly state that environmental, climatic, and natural resources profiles can be included.
  • Additionally, CEDS can contain the environmental elements — including the likelihood of increased disaster events due to climate change — that will affect and/or constrain the economy within the region.


  • Analyzing the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats — a required section of any CEDS — requires that the agency or organization creating the CEDS take equity into account.
  • An analysis of weaknesses within the region often requires an examination of historical injustices, especially in regard to racial, income, and sex inequities.


  • The creation of an effective CEDS document requires that the planning agency or individuals in charge of writing the CEDS engage with a wide variety of partners, including community leaders, local tribes, the private sector, educational institutions within the region, and other stakeholders.
  • Implementation of CEDS recommendations to encourage economic resilience within a region will require coordination and action from a wide variety of individuals, organizations, and agencies.
  • A necessary part of a CEDS document is the evaluation framework, which is used to measure the success of the CEDS report and the carrying out of its recommendations. Meaningful evaluation will require input from a wide variety of groups, including the private sector, government agencies, communities, and even individuals.


  • Under the Code of Federal Regulations, CEDS documents must contain four different elements/sections: summary background; an analysis of the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats; a strategic direction/action plan; and an evaluation framework.
  • While the agency or organization in charge of creating the CEDS can recommend specific strategies or actions, they do not have any enforcement mechanism by which they can ensure that these recommendations are carried out.
  • Local governments and agencies must actually implement the policies to realize these recommendations/strategies to ensure economic resilience within the region.

Lessons Learned

  • An in-depth tutorial/guidebook on how to write a successful, comprehensive CEDS report can be found here.
  • In an analysis of the region’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, CEDS writers should ask specific equity questions such as: “[whether there is] active engagement from the region’s vulnerable and/or underserved populations; [if] those populations have been provided appropriate access to and inclusion in the planning process; [and] has the region used technology-based tools to widen the distribution of information and increase the potential of feedback from residents?”
  • All literature on CEDS — case studies, guideline documents, and CEDS themselves — emphasize the need for robust community engagement in the creation of a CEDS report. Community leaders, local businesses, and other groups or individuals on the ground within a region know what the economic strengths and weaknesses of that region are. Planning agencies will not be able to develop innovative solutions to promote economic resilience without first learning from the community what problems exist that hinder economic development.
  • Additionally, the planning agency or organization tasked with the creation of a CEDS document will not have the authority to enforce the recommendations or strategies they put forth. Other government agencies, businesses, and communities may be tasked with promulgating the CEDS recommendations (and have the authority to do so). For example, there here may be specific recommendations for local businesses, workforce development, individual communities or even community members, policymakers in other organizations, etc. In these instances, implementation of these recommendations may require the action of an individual, business owner, or nonprofit.
  • Additionally, if these groups are involved in the development of these strategies and recommendations from the beginning, it is more likely that they will implement the necessary policy changes.


Related Resources

Greater Boston, Massachusetts Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council of Boston (MAPC) released its CEDS report in 2015, which aims to direct economic development throughout the region until 2020. The CEDS document lists and describes dozens of action items that MAPC believes will help to increase the Boston area’s economic resilience. One of the spotlight issues the Report works to address is the impacts climate change will have on Boston’s economy — especially emphasizing the impact on frontline, under-represented communities. In order to increase the City’s economic resilience in the face of climate change, the CEDS document establishes several goals that focus specifically on helping these community members, including: that income inequality and inequities within the region decrease; that the Metro Area grow a stable supply of skilled and educated workers; that the region diversifies its industry; and that the City’s economy generally becomes better prepared to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change. To achieve these goals, the CEDS report lists several actions/strategies that will need to be implemented by policymakers, business owners, local colleges, and more. Many of the goals and action plans within the CEDS interact and overlap. As a result, achievement or implementation of a goal or action plan can often positively affect other programs or plans encouraged within the Strategy document.

Southeastern Montana Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

In 2017, Southeastern Montana Development Corporation (SMDC) released the Southeastern Montana CEDS after consultation with hundreds of residents throughout the area to address common issues. The issues addressed in the document include repairing infrastructure, increasing broadband capacity to meet local needs, encouraging resilient energy development, and fostering diverse, local businesses. Throughout the CEDS, SMDC reiterates the importance of working to create a strong coalition of communities and businesses to facilitate the development of resilient infrastructure, while “maintaining a traditional, rural, high-quality lifestyle.” Among the many projects and initiatives contained within the CEDS, those that are most applicable to encouraging a resilient economy emphasize Climate and Renewable Energy Development; combating inequality and unemployment; and establishing an Economic Resilience Strategy. To combat this inequality and unemployment, the report proposes several programs dedicated to helping under-represented, frontline communities and residents. These programs include supporting workforce development programs in communities that focus primarily on the disadvantaged, as well as scholarship programs that train these individuals on green energy technologies.

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