Regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy

The Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), analyzes the regional economy, establishes regional economic goals and strategies, and outlines a plan of action.

The CEDS primary focus is to provide a regional economic development framework, but it also provides a vehicle through which federal agencies – namely the Economic Development Administration (EDA) – evaluate requests for grant assistance.

Updated every three to five years, the CEDS utilizes an iterative planning process that assures the document will continue to evolve and adapt to the region’s needs.

Goals and Strategies

The Gulf Coast Economic Development District (GCEDD) adopted the following goals and strategies. These goals provide a sound structure for the activities of the region and are relevant to the needs identified by the GCEDD Board of Directors, CEDS Committee, and the community engagement process.

Learn more about the goals and strategies using the tabs below.

Our Region is resilient and adaptive to economic downturns, natural disasters, and new opportunities.

The region has an established tradition of bouncing back stronger from natural and man-made disasters. The GCEDD region is vulnerable to hurricanes, flooding, drought, and wildfires, as well as impacts from national and global economic crises. Reducing our vulnerability, where possible, to these events and speeding the rate of recovery will improve our safety and quality of life, as well as our ability to attract new residents and businesses.

Structural solutions – like dikes, flood gates and major drainage improvements will be needed to protect key assets, but their high cost means that this approach must be carefully targeted. Using the natural landscape to absorb the floodwaters and storm surge and being wiser about how and where we build to reduce our vulnerability, are less expensive approaches that can be applied more broadly. This section provides strategies on how the region can better plan for future events, adapt to changing conditions, and recover after an event.

  • Support an analysis of regional and county-level economies to determine gaps and opportunities in diversification. Assist areas that may be over-dependent on single industries and help focus on supporting/incentivizing emerging industries.
  • Support an education campaign targeting community and elected leaders on the importance of retaining and expanding existing businesses/sectors.
  • Support the development of a regional toolkit to capitalize on future growth sectors, such as outdoor recreation, tourism, local food production, and many others.
  • Support local governments in conducting economic vulnerability assessments, including vulnerability to natural disasters.

Our Region has a diverse economy and skilled workforces that support businesses, innovation, and entrepreneurship.

The GCEDD region has one of the most robust economies in the nation, and momentum continues to build with growing energy, manufacturing, and medical sectors. One of the region’s major strengths is its entrepreneurial culture – that supports the financing and development of small businesses. However, deficits exist in high school graduation rates, which could lead to a widening gap between the needs of employers and the qualifications of our workforce. The current economic growth gives the region an opportunity to strategically invest in better education and training, as well as more collaborative financing measures for business owners.

The region can offer training opportunities to promote financial self sufficiency, including personal and family budgeting and investment strategies. While not referenced in the strategies specifically, supporting technical assistance for entrepreneurs – as well as associated financing tools for those looking to start or grow a small business in the region – are a major focus for the region moving forward. This section provides strategies on how the region can help maintain a competitive economy, support thriving businesses, and develop a prepared workforce.

  • Support current and future employer needs through the expansion of training and educational opportunities offered by educational and vocational institutions throughout the region.
  • Support the expansion of educational opportunities in order to develop a broadly skilled workforce.
  • Support the development of a “buy local, made local, grow local” public campaign.

Our Region’s residents have access to education, training, jobs, and business opportunities that support a good quality of life and financial stability.

By increasing the skill and education levels of the regional workforce, more locally sourced labor will be able to fill employer need from within – ultimately, improving competitiveness and raising incomes. An educated, employable workforce will reduce unemployment and poverty in the region, lowering public costs for housing and other social programs.

In order to improve graduation rates and academic achievement, early and late stage educational programs must be targeted for support. The District will support efforts that expand the training available to adults to enhance their job skills, ranging from basic to highly specialized. Residents employed in jobs that provide financial security will improve their quality of life and add to the region’s economy.

  • Support the development of small business incubators through partnerships between local governments, chambers of commerce, EDCs, universities, and/or other community anchor institutions to foster the development of locally owned enterprises.
  • Support assessments of high-speed data connections and gaps, particularly in rural areas.
  • Support a regional assessment tool to increase awareness of community factors that limit educational achievement or workplace skills.
  • Support the creation of an incentive or partnership program for communities to develop job training centers or community college and local paid apprenticeship programs where there is a demand.
  • Support programs to increase high school graduation rates and access to college and technical education.


Our region’s transportation and infrastructure promotes effective goods movement and is well connected to national and global destinations.

The GCEDD region is home to world class port facilities, as discussed earlier in the CEDS. In addition, the region contains one of the most dynamic intermodal networks in the country – bringing together rail, pipeline, air, and ground transportation to serve growing international and domestic markets.

This section provides strategies that focus on building and maintaining an efficient network, increase transportation choices, and improve planning and coordination.

  • Support the prioritization and allocation of transportation funding to maximize intermodal capabilities and improve the efficiency of goods movement.
  • Support campaigns that raise awareness of the importance of exports and goods movement on the regional and local economies.

Our region’s local governments have access to data, tools, and solutions that facilitate informed decisions on funding and investment decisions.

As derived from extensive community engagement activities, the CEDS focuses on a few basic items – grow an adaptable, and prepared workforce; support local small business owners in starting or expanding their business; and make sure local government, industry, and business have the information and infrastructure they need to thrive.

In order for this to happen, economic development organizations need to have access to the most up-to-date information and resources, and there must be a collaborative approach to problem identification and solving.

  • Support economic impact assessment services to support local decisions regarding business retention, expansion, and recruitment incentives.
  • Collaborate on data access tools that support the pursuit of grants, loans, and other sources of funding.

Our region’s residents live in safe, healthy communities with transportation options and have access to services and amenities that support a high quality of life.

Due to the diverse geography of the GCEDD region, the population resides in dense urban centers, rural towns, and suburban communities. The region has some of the most affordable housing opportunities in the country – especially when comparing it to areas of similar size and diversity.

However, major deficits exist in the quality of affordable housing, as well as the number of options for rural areas. In combination with the Our Great Region 2040 plan, the CEDS supports coordinated approaches to transportation, land use, and housing development. This section provides strategies on how the region can support a thriving housing market, provide housing choices to meet diverse needs, and provide quality housing that is both safe and healthy.

  • Support the development of a toolkit for matching local housing stock with economic development needs (such as employer assisted housing agreements, public/private partnerships, developer incentives, etc.)
  • Support coordinated land use and transportation investments to support increased connectivity to activity centers. Support the development of a toolkit to improve the quality of neighborhoods without displacing existing residents.

Our region’s water infrastructure supports current and future demands, while promoting the growth of healthy and economically dynamic communities.

The GCEDD region depends on a stable supply of water to meet the needs of a growing population, as well as for the needs of the industrial and agriculture sectors. In order to meet this growing need, local governments and regional entities will have to rethink how water projects are funded and they will have to focus on repairing an extensive network of aging infrastructure.

This section provides strategies on how the region can increase water supplies, improve the efficiency of water delivery, and protect water quality.

  • Support the development of regional water plans.
  • Support efforts to obtain federal, state, and regional funding to upgrade and maintain aging infrastructure (water, sewer, drainage facilities), while supporting the expansion of infrastructure to underserved areas.
  • Support the creation of a regional circuit rider program for water quality issues.

Our region values its unique ecosystems and understands the ecological, economic and cultural benefits they provide.

The preservation of our natural resources – especially along waterways – serves many functions, including pollution reduction, floodwater storage, and recreation/tourism opportunities.

This section provides strategies on how the region can help protect the quality of the environment and increase awareness of the value of ecological benefits.

  • Support the development of a regional conservation plan for high quality natural areas.
  • Support the development of local farm management plans to improve water quality and preserve working lands.
  • Improve access to fresh local foods by supporting the development of a regional food infrastructure.
  • Support the creation of a regional campaign to promote eco-, coastal, hunting, and birding tourism options available across the region.

Action Plan

Based on community engagement and priority development, the GCEDD has created the following action plan in order to target specific objectives pulled from the goals and strategies. The section discusses the major work elements of the GCEDD.

  • Collaborate on a region-wide gap analysis focusing on broadband access
  • Survey counties and cities on needs and current practices
  • Identify challenges to expanding access

Outputs – Online mapping component through GCEDD website, final brief, presentations

  • Targeted support of funding applications that best serve the needs of the region

  • Provide up-to-date infrastructure information (data, legislation, etc.)

Outputs – GCEDD Letters of Support, investment in water infrastructure, presentations and updates

  • Support regional and local analyses to determine gaps and opportunities in diversification
  • Collaborate on business expansion and retention efforts
  • Support local governments in conducting economic vulnerability assessments

Outputs – GCEDD Letters of Support, participation in workshops and taskforces, technical assistance

  • Support the expansion of training and educational opportunities offered by educational and vocational institutions throughout the region
  • Support workplace and soft skills development
  • Support small business incubators through partnerships between and/or community anchor institutions to foster the development of locally owned enterprises

Outputs – Coordination with local colleges and Workforce Solutions, technical assistance for grants