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An economic development agency works in communities to promote sustainable economic growth. In general, this is done by attracting businesses, assisting with workforce development, and planning appropriate housing. These agencies can be classified as local, national or international, each of which has its own strategies for development.
A local economic development agency might be a branch of a town, city or county government. Agency workers are directly involved in the economic planning of their communities. They often do demographic research to find out what kinds of businesses might do well in their area, and actively recruit entrepreneurs to move or expand their businesses into the area. Part of business recruitment often involves improving the infrastructure of a community, such as widening congested highways to make routes more accessible. They may also provide support in workforce development by helping companies create job descriptions, hosting job fairs, and matching job seekers with businesses that might employ them.
On a national scale, an economic development agency usually works by assisting communities in forming their own strategies for development. In the US, for instance, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) often comes into communities that have experienced long-term or sudden economic problems. Long-term problems might include generational poverty within inner city or deep rural areas, while sudden problems may arise from natural disasters or unexpected changes in economic circumstances. The EDA may work with the local government or economic development agency to assist in planning for economic recovery.
In contrast to the previous two types of agencies, an international economic development agency is often run privately rather than by the government. Often these agencies work within communities in developing nations by providing education and training for aspiring business owners. They may also teach sustainable or bio-intensive agricultural techniques in rural areas to make farming more reliable and productive in the long term.
Regardless of the scale of the agencies, they will have a number of factors in common. For one, the focus is primarily on economic growth rather than on short-term aid or relief projects like famine assistance. For another, the focus may be on preventing the development of "blight" areas — slums or exclusively low-income housing areas — by seeking to create affordable housing within the mainstream community.
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