Taking the reins of and leading an Economic Development District (EDD) requires a serious commitment of time and energy. It will likely require risks, innovation, compromise, leadership, partnership, and professionalism. The first 100 days is often the measure of how effective a new leader will be. It is the initial runway for you to establish your approach, show initiative, and demonstrate your ability to handle the responsibilities of the job. Those first 100 days are also the time to set the tone of the reputation and impact you desire to create for the organization.
Whether you are new to the organization, new to the region, or promoted from within, you should be intentional in your effort to grasp as complete of an understanding as possible. At times, the job may seem overwhelming, but remember that you are not the first to take this step nor will you be the last. There is a network of professionals to help and mentor you, as well as resources for certain aspects of the job to help guide you through.
This toolkit was developed to help new and aspiring executive directors equip themselves with the depth of knowledge and understanding that will be required to successfully lead an EDD. The content of this toolkit is a small representation of the strategies developed, lessons learned, best practices implemented, and failures overcame of the countless regional leaders who have over the past 50 years developed the network of EDDs across the country. It is these pioneering leaders that build a strong foundation for future success — a success that continues with you.
Every Economic Development District will present unique challenges for new leaders. These challenges may include whether the new leader was an internal hire, if they are following a long-time well-respected director, or if they are expected to rebuild the organization. This webinar features steps to consider when “taking the reins” and building relationships in the community and region.
While organization financial management and operations may be daunting, they are also critical to the success of Economic Development Districts. Learn strategies to successfully manage these two areas including looking at revenue streams, understanding the role of your board, organization staffing, and governance.
As new Executive Directors get started in their roles, what should they be thinking about? How should they approach their first few months with intentionality? Given the enormous demands on an Executive Director’s time, how should they prioritize to lead effectively? View this webinar for insightful tips including how to use the above New Executive Directors Toolkit.
Economic Development Districts around the nation are experiencing unprecedented rates of turnover of executive directors. Often, new executive directors assume the position without any training or guidance from their predecessor. This hands-on workshop focuses on onboarding and orientation for those new to the job and those in line to become executive director in the near future.
“What does your organization do?” is often the question friends and family ask after you tell them you have a new job. For many new to the economic or regional development world, it can be challenging to respond given the broad range of programs and services offered combined with the inherent behind the scenes role of the organization.
As part of the new employee onboarding process, this primer is a useful tool to explain the organization’s unique nature and its role in the larger landscape of regional development across the United States. It is designed to complement existing materials new staff are provided when they start their jobs, and serve as a reference tool as they settle their new roles and continue to learn about the dynamic nature of the organization.
This guide accompanies the EDD Primer for Onboarding New Staff developed for Economic Development District (EDD) executive directors to incorporate into their new employee onboarding process. It is especially intended for staff that have not previously worked in an EDD, have no prior knowledge of the EDD, or have not been engaged in regional planning and development. It could also be used as part of the orientation process for new board members.
The guide was created to help explain the work of EDDs and their role in the national economic development landscape. EDA-designated EDDs across the nation have two primary commonalities: they undertake a regular Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) process, and they meet certain economic distress criteria set forth by EDA. Beyond that, the programs and services they provide can range widely. The guide provides new staff with basic knowledge about the various roles of EDDs.
Designed for EDD executive directors—seasoned, new, or those on course to assume a leadership role—this interactive session focuses on three key factors for assuring a strong EDD: an active and engaged board, a strong and committed team of professionals, and a state association that advocates for EDDs at the state level and provides resources to EDDs directly.
Designed for executive directors in the position for less than three years, and for EDD staff on track to become executive directors, this workshop provides participants with insights into becoming an effective RDO leader.
What does progress in your community or region look like? How do you decide what to measure? Traditional economic metrics may not tell the whole story of how regions are changing over time. The materials from this interactive session benefit RDO planners, local officials, and other attendees by working to identify and measure change.
Data is critical to creating compelling and accurate regional plans. This session centers on opportunities and resources, including insights to improved community-level data, how to perform quick quality assurance, and available data tools at the federal and regional levels.
As small communities and regions continue to recover from the recession and pandemic, an entrepreneurship strategy can serve as a powerful, asset-based approach. This session highlights strategies, best practices, and resources available to build and nurture an entrepreneurial ecosystem in regions. It also explores ways to dismantle barriers to entrepreneurship and foster a more inclusive and equitable approach to economic development.
Regional Development Researcher Andrew Coker joined the NADO team in March of 2023 after spending two and a half years as the Regional Economic Resiliency Coordinator at West Central Arkansas Planning and Development District. Andrew holds a bachelor’s degree from Hendrix College and a master’s degree from the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.
At NADO, Andrew conducts research on the newest economic and community development best practices from Economic Development Districts across the country. He helps produce easily digestible information on complex regional issues through case studies, tip sheets, and research reports. Andrew also hosts training and professional development opportunities including conference sessions and virtual webinars for member regional development organizations.
Andrew is one of our Missouri-based team members and enjoys reading and training for his next triathlon.
Jack Morgan came to the NADO team in 2022 after seven years with the National Association of Counties (NACo) as a Program and Senior Program Manager. Prior to NACo, Jack was a Policy Analyst for Friends of Southwest Virginia. Jack holds a bachelor’s in geography from Emory & Henry College and a master’s in geography from Appalachian State University.
As a NADO Senior Program Manager, Jack leads capacity-building and peer-learning work supporting energy communities in economic transition, regional resilience, and recreation economies. He also helps with the EDA-Austin training program Emerging Leaders.
Jack is certified by the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and is a member of the American Planning Association (APA) in the Regional & Intergovernmental Planning division. He also serves on the Emory & Henry College Alumni Board.
Taking road trips, reading non-fiction, and indulging in top-notch barbecue and coffee round out Jack’s days. He loves maps, mountains, and of course, all things sports.
Karron Grant joined the NADO team in 2023 as Administrative Specialist and is the first face (or voice) you’ll see or hear when reaching out to NADO. As Administrative Specialist, Karron manages our database and coordinates NADO event operations. He ensures members’ needs are met, contact information stays current, and NADO’s office is running efficiently.
Karron came to NADO after four years in the classroom teaching at The New Century School and Old Mill Middle North where he received the Patriot of the Year award. He attended Towson University and the University of Maryland Global Campus and holds a bachelor’s in international studies and humanities.
Visiting art galleries and museums, playing basketball and bowling, and taking in movies and music are some of Karron’s interests and hobbies.
Deputy Executive Director Laurie Thompson has been with NADO for 25 years. Laurie helps keep the NADO and NADO Research Foundation wheels turning through management of the daily operations of the Research Foundation, securing financial resources and overseeing grants management, and helping execute NADO’s Annual Training Conference each year.
Laurie holds a bachelor’s in public affairs and government from Mount Vernon College and a master’s in health services administration from The George Washington University. Prior to NADO, Laurie spent time as a Field Specialist and an Eagle Staff Fund Director at First Nations Development Institute.
When she’s taking a rare reprieve from her NADO work, Laurie enjoys traveling domestically and internationally to visit friends and family.
Jamie McCormick joined the NADO team as a Policy Fellow first in 2019, then moved into her current role as Legislative Associate in 2021. As Legislative Associate, Jamie keeps NADO members apprised of any policy and regulatory issues and communicates NADO’s policy priorities to federal stakeholders and partner organizations. She is also the first stop for members with inquiries on policy issues. The planning and executive of NADO & DDAA’s annual Washington Conference is also managed by Jamie.
Jamie holds a dual bachelor’s in political science and international relations from The State University of New York College at Geneseo and a master’s in international development studies from The George Washington University. In addition to her roles at NADO, Jamie also worked as a Legislative Assistant for the Northeastern Retail Lumber Association.
Outside of her NADO work, Jamie is an active volunteer with the VOLO Kids Foundation and a fundraiser for YMCA youth programs. She is also NADO’s resident baker regularly providing treats for those in NADO’s D.C. office. Traveling, taking her pup on walks, and hiking in the northeast keep Jamie busy.
Brett Schwartz began at NADO in 2012 as a Research Fellow after earning his J.D. from the University of Baltimore School of Law. The following year, he was promoted to Program Manager and has now been leading as an Associate Director since 2018. Brett is responsible for managing NADO’s Economic Development District Community of Practice (EDD CoP), as well as researching and monitoring the latest trends in regional economic development and resilience, including best practices for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS). With more than a decade of experience on the NADO team, Brett is a dynamic relationship builder helping connect and build capacity among the national network of regional development organizations.
Brett also holds a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s from Trinity College Dublin, as well as a certificate in mediation training. He’s a member of Catalyst Grantmakers of San Diego and Imperial Counties and was a participant in the 2021-22 Field Trips to the Future Cohort.
Brett is one of NADO’s West Coast team members residing in San Diego, CA where he enjoys spending time outdoors, attending concerts and festivals, and soaking up life as a parent of two young children.
Communications Manager Katie Allison joined the team in 2023 to lead the strategic communication efforts of NADO. Katie creates and develops print and online materials, communicates NADO’s updates to members via weekly emails, and maintains content for nado.org and NADO’s social media channels. She also works with different departments to generate new ideas and strategies to effectively describe and promote the important work NADO is doing for EDDs and RDOs across the country.
An experienced nonprofit communications professional, Katie has worked for organizations in western North Carolina for nearly a decade. She holds a bachelor’s in communications from Wingate University where she was a four-year student athlete. Katie has also completed Vision Henderson County, a comprehensive leadership development program that promotes informed and committed civic volunteerism.
Katie stays busy trying to keep up with her two young sons whom she enjoys exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains with. Traveling to new and favorite places and cheering on the Atlanta Braves are some of their favorite pastimes.
Senior Program Manager Ciara Ristig has been a member of the NADO team since 2021, and helps with NADO’s EDD Community of Practice, EDD staff capacity building and other grants on a range of subjects, including equity and solar energy. Before NADO, Ciara worked as a Planner for the County of Santa Barbara and an Assistant Project Manager for REM Consult. Ciara holds a bachelor’s in urban studies and French from Bryn Mawr and a master’s in urban studies from Ecole d’Urbanisme de Paris.
When she’s not traveling, you can find her outrigger paddling and serving on the board of the Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, CA, near her home base of Santa Barbara.
Carrie Kissel has been a member of the NADO team since 2005 when she began as a Research Fellow. She later moved into the roles of Program Manager in 2006, and then Associate Director in 2011. Carrie holds a bachelor’s in anthropology from Ball State University and a master’s in public anthropology from American University. As Associate Director, Carrie oversees NADO’s work in rural transportation and rural wealth creation. She provides technical assistance and support to rural regions on transportation and economic development issues and develops training and peer exchange events on transportation issues and rural wealth creation as an economic development strategy.
Carrie is a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) and secretary of TRB’s Rural Transportation Issues Coordinating Council. She is also a member of the American Anthropological Association and the National Association for the Practice of Anthropology.
Reading, gardening, hiking, and kayaking are a few of Carrie’s hobbies, and she organizes and facilitates a DEI/social justice-focused book club in her community.
Melissa Levy has worked at NADO as a Regional Development Researcher since February 2023 and is the Principal Consultant at her own firm specializing in wealth-based economic development consulting. With a career spanning nearly 30 years, Melissa brings a breadth of knowledge to her role as a Regional Development Researcher. Melissa provides in-depth research, coaching, and training on regional economic resilience, rural wealth creation strategies, and economic development.
Melissa is a North American Food Systems Network trained AgriCluster Resilience and Expansion (ACRE) facilitator and a WealthWorks coach, facilitator, and trainer. In addition to her professional work, Melissa serves on the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Council, on the board of the Hinesburg Community Resource Center, and on the Hinesburg Economic Development Committee.
A true outdoorswoman, Melissa enjoys cross country and downhill skiing, paddleboarding, hiking, biking, and kayaking, as well as yoga, and teaching Tai Chi.
Program Manager Krishna Kunapareddy began her role with NADO in February of 2023 after 14 years of service at Boonslick Regional Planning Commission in Missouri. Krishna manages NADO Research Foundation’s Planning and Environmental Linkages and Center for Environmental Excellence projects. In addition to researching and writing, Krishna also conducts virtual workshops on innovative tools and techniques related to transportation planning.
She holds an undergraduate degree from Andhra University and a master’s from JNT University in India, as well as a master’s in city and regional planning from the University of Texas at Arlington. Krishna is also a certified Smart Cities Academy Practitioner and holds the Location Advantage certificate from geographic information system software company ESRI.
In her spare time, Krishna volunteers with Mentors4College helping high schoolers better plan for their post-high school paths. She is also a dedicated advocate for documented H4 Dreamers.
Krystal DeLeon joined the NADO team in October of 2020 as Database & Grants Manger, but in January of 2022 transitioned to her current role as Operations Manager. Krystal keeps NADO running through behind the scenes work of invoicing, solving any database issues that may arise, producing membership reports, and much more. Her organizational skills and thorough knowledge help the NADO team operate more efficiently across all departments.
Prior to NADO, Krystal was the Conference Services Coordinator for State Services Organization. She is a Certified Meeting Professional (CMP), a licensed realtor, and holds a bachelor’s in psychology from Liberty University. When she’s not keeping NADO’s operations in order, Krystal enjoys running and rock climbing, and adventuring with her husband and son.
Senior Program Manager Bret Allphin joined NADO in April of 2022 bringing with him a wealth of knowledge after a 20-year career with Buckeye Hills Regional Council in Marietta, Ohio. In addition to his bachelor’s in political science and master’s in public affairs, Bret is licensed Geographical Information Systems Professional (GISP). He is NADO’s go-to team member for all things mapping while also supporting members with transportation and economic development technical assistance services.
An avid sports aficionado and former collegiate athlete, Bret enjoys cheering on his Cincinnati Reds, hitting the trails on his mountain bike, and improving his golf game whenever possible. Bret is an involved community member in Marietta dedicating much of his spare time to serving on local nonprofit boards.
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Joe McKinney serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Development Organizations (NADO). Headquartered in Washington DC, NADO provides advocacy, education, research, and training for the nation’s 500+ regional planning and development organizations.
Joe has thirty-one years of experience having served in city, county, regional, national association, and government management since 1991. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Policy Analysis from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and is a candidate for a master’s degree in Public Administration from UNC-Chapel Hill.
McKinney has provided congressional testimony on numerous occasions regarding the importance of regional development organizations in helping shape the nation’s economic growth. He is nationally recognized for promoting innovative solutions in areas such as planning and economic development, workforce development, transportation and transit, and aging services.