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.



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