Tools and Techniques for Understanding Urban Economies

Published on Feb 13, 2015

Updated on Nov 3, 2022

Written by Emsi Burning Glass

image of Lightcast gradiant

If you are an economic development professional and would like to gain the competitive edge and a valuable credential, here is a fantastic new opportunity.

Last fall, the NYU School of Professional Studies launched the Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities. The Initiative offers a certificate program built to provide economic development professionals with the theory, knowledge, and data skills necessary to proactively develop their regional economies.

Below is a description of the program and the ensuing certificate. Upon completion of the program, students will have achieved the following:

  • Mastery of the fundamentals, tools, and techniques of economic development

  • Development of full-scale, data-driven, city economic development, attraction, and retention strategies

  • Identification of key economic data, including industry and occupational measurements and demographic sources and metrics

  • Grasp of necessary quantitative and qualitative skills and expertise that are critical for success

  • Establishment of a network of peer economic development practitioners and experts

  • Understanding of key differences between economic development practices across the globe for developed cities and countries, as well as for those still developing

  • Best-practice development and curation of creative cities approaches

  • Development of a creative placemaking toolkit for a variety of communities and neighborhoods

  • Comprehension of a diverse array of economic development tools, incentive programs, and partnership model

  • Knowledge of livability and resiliency factors, as well as best practices for the built city environment

Required Courses

Students will take two required courses: Tools and Techniques for Understanding Urban Economies (taught by EMSI’s Rob Sentz, chief innovation officer, and Tim Nadreau, research economist) and Principles of Economic Development (taught by Richard Florida, founder of the Creative Class Group, and Steven Pedigo, NYUSPS assistant clinical professor of economic development).

Tools and Techniques for Understanding Urban Economies will be the key methods course for the Certificate in Creative Cities and Economic Development, offering important insights into effective economic development research methods and associated strategies.

Principles of Economic Development will serve as the entry point for the Certificate in Creative Cities and Economic Development, providing practical examples, case studies, and best practices for building creative, inclusive communities.


Students must also select two electives from the following:

  • Global Cities: This course offers key insights into the challenges and the trends that are having an impact on the world’s cities, including increased urbanization, social and equity divides, infrastructure development, and human skill development.

  • Creative Placemaking: This course provides an overview of the latest best practices and approaches in creative placemaking, including neighborhood revitalization, public and green space use, and street-level programming.

  • Economic Development Partnerships: This course will help students uncover the most effective models and best practices of economic development partnerships, and will outline the tools utilized in modern-day economic development, including place-based incentives, and grants and financing models.

  • Urban Innovation: This course demonstrates the importance of the ecosystem to start-up businesses and showcases various models and approaches for supporting innovation and startups in urban environments, including incubator and accelerator best practices.

  • Resilient Cities: This course demonstrates how city builders must utilize new approaches to building resilient cities that incorporate climate and sustainability policies, physical development, and environment protection.

  • Maps and Geospatial Analysis: This course covers the techniques needed for collecting and representing data.

Below is more information on the class led by EMSI.

Tools and Techniques for Understanding Urban Economies

The EMSI class has a hybrid format with a total of eight lessons: three synchronous sessions (live) and five asynchronous sessions (online). All course work is contained within NYU classes (NYU’s LMS), including readings, discussion forums, and other assignments. Students can take the class from anywhere via NYU’s learning management system (LMS).

All students of the EMSI class will receive access to Analyst, EMSI’s online labor market analysis tool. We will be using the tool extensively in the course activities. By the end of the course, students will be able to do the following:

  • Explain why labor market analysis is useful for economic and community development, and demonstrate how to use it in workforce and business development planning

  • Define a city or regional economy and articulate its relative strengths, target industries, competitive advantages, and emerging clusters

  • Create a workforce and gap analysis to understand key occupational clusters, staffing patterns, human capital, and educational training needs

  • Develop an urban economic development strategy using the data, tools, and theory presented in the course

The eight lessons are as follows:

  1. Introduction: Developing a Data-Driven Economic and Workforce Development Strategy

  2. The Regional Economy, Part 1: Drawing the Circle—Determining Your Region’s Boundaries

  3. The Regional Economy, Part 2: What’s Inside of the Circle?

  4. Data and Analyst Orientation

  5. The Regional Economy, Part 3: What Sustains/Grows the Circle?

  6. Understanding and Assessing Your Workforce

  7. The Regional Economy, Part 4: Impacting the Circle

  8. Final: Group Presentation

We are really excited about this opportunity and believe that many economic development organizations can greatly benefit from this program. Please share it with your colleagues and friends!

The Faculty

The driving force behind the Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities is Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, director of the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, founder of the Creative Class Group (which works closely with governments and companies worldwide), and NYU School of Professional Studies clinical research professor. Richard also is the c-founder and editor at large for The Atlantic’s As you might recall from reading our blog, EMSI has worked with Richard Florida via CityLab on a number of occasions. You can check out some articles here and here.

Steven Pedigo is the course director for the Certificate. As assistant clinical professor for economic development at the NYU School of Professional Studies, Steven leads the Initiative’s effort to develop and to deliver its civic engagement and economic development curriculum and research program. Steven also has served as vice president for the Initiative for a Competitive Inner City, a national research organization founded by Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter; the vice president for business attraction and research for Greater Portland, Inc., a regional economic development organization for the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan region; and the director of research for the Greater Washington Initiative, a regional marketing organization for the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Richard and Steven are joined by Rob Sentz, the lead instructor for Tools and Techniques for Understanding Urban Economies. Rob recently became EMSI’s chief innovation officer. Prior to assuming this role, he led EMSI’s marketing and communication efforts for eight years. He writes and speaks on how data can be used be used in the worlds of economic development, education, and workforce planning. The analysis produced by Rob and EMSI are regularly featured by ForbesThe Atlantic,and Harvard Business Review.

Tim Nadreau, research economist at EMSI, joins the class as instructor and designer of the curriculum for Tools and Techniques for Understanding Urban Economies. While his specialty is in abstract and

linear algebras, his consulting work has focused largely on cluster theory, human capital, and international trade. Tim’s graduate research at the University of Idaho focused on the public investment and benefit/cost analysis of postsecondary education. He was awarded the coveted Iddings fellowship for his work on optimal public investments and tuition levels for community and technical colleges. He also has done work revolving around agricultural policies and regional development. Tim has begun to earn his PhD at Washington State University, with a focus on increasing accuracy in Input-Output (I-O) and Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) models. He is expected to defend in 2017.

How Do You Enroll?

To learn more, or to register for the Certificate program, click here. Tuition is $795 per class.

If you have any questions, please contact Steven Pedigo. You also can check back with the Initiative for Creativity and Innovation in Cities website or follow Rob Sentz on Twitter via @EconomicSentz. For more history about the program, click here.