Economic development strategic planning, analysis, and target industries

Dan has led or been a major contributor to local, regional and state economic development plans; data analysis and research in support of economic development initiatives; and studies of key industries for growth and expansion. Dan is equally comfortable leading detailed data-driven analysis of economic competitiveness of regions and states, as well as conducting stakeholder interviews and focus groups to develop goals, strategies and action items. Dan’s strength is combining his big picture understanding of regional economic growth with a deep reservoir of experience with economic development programs and policies to help clients focus on what’s most important to achieve positive economic change.

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Competitive Factors and Business Location Decisions in Massachusetts

For MassEcon, Mr. Hodge was involved from project conception to final report writing in a major economic development research project to assess the competitive factors driving business expansion and relocation projects throughout Massachusetts. Initiated while at the UMass Donahue Institute, this project utilized a database of almost 375 business expansion project over the past 12 years to analyze the industries completing expansion projects, their geographic locations, and the driving factors behind location decisions. The project implemented a detailed business survey to go beyond high-level rankings of competitiveness, and Mr. Hodge participated in interviews with Massachusetts companies to hear directly about their expansion project, what worked well, key state and regional assets, and continuing challenges. The study found that, not surprisingly, skilled workforce is the most important factor but this varies by region and industry, and other factors like energy and health care costs, and responsiveness of economic development officials also play a critical role in both location decisions and ongoing business operations. Hodge Economic Consulting was engaged directly by MassEcon to help complete the project, editing and re-writing the final report into a summary report.

Economic Development Strategic Plan for Town of Auburn (MA)

For the town of Auburn (MA), Hodge Economic Consulting was selected to lead all aspects of an economic development strategic plan. Auburn is a relatively small town (population less than 20,000) but with its enviable transportation assets (I-90, I-290 and along the CSX main line), it maintains a diverse mix of distribution, manufacturing and regional retail industries. This plan includes the following major components: 1) a data-driven profile of economic, demographic, and industry trends and conditions for the town; 2) interviews with a wide range of local/regional economic development stakeholders; 3) a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis; 4) strategy development of actionable policy, investment and programmatic changes for the town; and 5) a variety of public input meetings and final report briefings. The final plan was completed in spring 2017 and Hodge was retained to help implement key aspects of the strategic recommendations, including developing marketing and promotional materials, and researching options and specifications for hiring a full-time economic development professional.

Data Research on Gateway Cities and Transformative Development Initiative Districts

For MassDevelopment, Mr. Hodge (while at UMass) guided a data-driven project to profile the economic, demographic, and real estate market conditions in the 26 Gateway Cities in Massachusetts (generally small-medium sized cities with economic distress). The profile helped develop a typology of Gateway Cities and included sub-city data for 10 “districts in development” which is the focus of the state’s Transformative Development Initiative to target improving economic conditions in specific areas in most need. Dan played a key role determining the most appropriate and reliable data measures to track city-wide and district-level economic, demographic and real estate conditions, using this report as an initial baseline. This work was compiled into a report entitled “Transformative Development Initiative (TDI): Gateway City Economic Snapshot” published in February 2016. In June 2016, Hodge Economic Consulting was engaged by the MassDevelopment / UMass research team to help conduct a Phase II of data research, with even greater focus on the TDI districts. As economic and real estate data are typically less reliable for the relatively small geography of the districts, Dan is focused on helping to identify, consistently measure and interpret a range of more “novel” data concepts to capture the near-term activities and initiatives in each TDI district (e.g., co-working space and members, placemaking events, bike/pedestrian counts, and entrepreneurship).

Innovation-Based Economic Development Strategy for Holyoke and the Pioneer Valley

For the John Adams Innovation Institute of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, Dan led the HDR Decision Economics team as project manager for an innovation-based economic development strategy in Holyoke and the Pioneer Valley (MA). read more

The key objectives were to: a) identify the industry opportunities and economic growth that can be achieved by leveraging the benefits of the Massachusetts Green High-Performance Computing Center (MGHPCC) and other key local and regional assets; and b) develop an action-oriented economic development strategy for the City of Holyoke and the Pioneer Valley region to achieve the economic potential of these initiatives and opportunities. The resulting strategic plan focused on four target industries (advanced manufacturing, IT/technology, clean energy, and urban agriculture), and four foundational assets (talent/workforce, delivery of economic development, land use and sites for development, and entrepreneurship). The plan has been used as the blueprint for an ongoing initiative in Holyoke’s Innovation District (

Knowledge Corridor Talent and Workforce Strategy

For the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission and as part of the HUD-funded Knowledge Corridor Sustainability Plan, Hodge was the project director of a "cradle to career" talent and workforce strategic plan for the bi-state (CT and MA) Knowledge Corridor stretching from Hartford to Springfield to Greenfield, MA. read more

The Knowledge Corridor is home to enviable assets, including world-class colleges and universities, and many strong areas of talent and workforce development. At a high level, the region is generally competitive with the U.S. overall in educational attainment, wage levels, unemployment rates, and other key measures. But, the region does not fare as well as the statewide averages for either Massachusetts or Connecticut across virtually all key education and workforce indicators. And the performance of the overall region masks staggering economic and demographic conditions in the region’s urban core cities, such as Springfield, Hartford, Holyoke, and New Britain. The detailed plan for improvement in education and workforce training is critical for today and the future — too many adults did not achieve a high school degree (or higher) and are not even measured in the labor force; and too many children are not enrolled in early education / pre-school and are scoring below basic levels of reading and math.

Economic Diversification Strategic Plan for Massachusetts Defense Sector

Funded by a Department of Defense (DoD) grant from the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), Hodge is a key contributor and senior advisor to MassDevelopment and a team led by TIP Strategies, UMass Donahue Institute and Chmura Economics for the Massachusetts defense sector. read more

This large-scale strategic planning effort in Massachusetts is focused on enhancing economic opportunities for the prominent defense sector that is facing the challenge of continued reductions in Federal defense spending. Dan is helping to evaluate industries at risk, develop an asset database mapping system for the defense sector eco-system, and leading the research, evaluation and strategies for tech transfer and commercialization.

Economic Development Strategy for Palm Beach County and Economic Competitiveness Assessment of Southeast Florida

For two parallel studies for the Economic Development Research Institute, Dan was project manager of economic development projects to assess the performance of the Southeast Florida economy and develop recommendations to improve the economic prosperity of the region. read more

One study focused on the seven-county Southeast Florida region, with emphasis on benchmarking the region’s economic performance to other regions around the country to assess the competitiveness and trends of Southeast Florida. The assessment included a wide range of metrics across economic growth, per capita income, industry concentrations, workforce and educational attainment, trade and transportation, and housing costs. The other project detailed the economic challenges and opportunities for Palm Beach County, resulting in a detailed economic development strategy for Palm Beach County focused on industry diversification to increase average wages, workforce and education, and economic infrastructure (workforce housing, sites for development, transportation mobility).

Revenue Distribution and Target Industries for Rural Economic Development

For Enterprise Florida, Inc., as part of a team led by Fairfield Index, Dan developed revenue distribution formulas to allocate the benefits of economic development projects in rural areas of Florida to local participating jurisdictions. read more

The revenue distribution methodology was part of a larger Enterprise Florida rural economic development initiative known as the "Catalyst Project" that is developing 4 sites for economic opportunities in the state's Rural Areas of Critical Economic Concern (RACEC). Each site represents a collaborative multi-county economic development effort and thus the fiscal benefits (e.g., increased property taxes) are to be shared by the local participating counties and cities. In related work, Dan led the target industry study for the South Central Florida RACEC. That study included a thorough SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) of the region in terms of current and future economic opportunities. The SWOT included input from economic development leaders regarding workforce skills, infrastructure, tax incentives, and cost competitiveness. The study also included detailed national and regional industry analysis to help prioritize five target industries to help the region improve per capita income and overall economic conditions.

Pioneer Valley Growth Business Study

For Common Capital, the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, and a group of local organizations supporting small businesses in the region, Dan was the project director of a study to conduct a survey of small-medium sized businesses in the Pioneer Valley, and apply the proprietary NETS establishment dataset (time series business data) to identify and understand more about firms that are growing quickly in the region. read more

The purpose of this study was to enhance efforts to grow the Pioneer Valley economy by supporting the business needs of growth-oriented companies within the region. In particular, the research identified growth businesses and industry sectors in the Pioneer Valley, profiled their characteristics, determined what factors most contributed to their success, and determined the challenges and constraints to continued growth. A second objective of the research was to identify the types of business assistance that would address growth needs (technical assistance, financing options, regulatory, networking, etc.). The information gathered from the study is being used to enhance business assistance and outreach programs in the region, and Dan helped oversee a similar study for the Hartford metro area in Connecticut.

Berkshire County Advanced Manufacturing Study

For the Pittsfield Economic Revitalization Corporation, Dan (while at UMass) was project director of a study of advanced manufacturing in Berkshire County to help local leaders create a strategy for business and job growth for the region. read more

The research conducted for this study was focused on understanding advanced manufacturing in Berkshire County in terms of the challenges and opportunities to expand success for the industry in the region. It also included a review of best practices, findings from other studies and documentation of the increasingly focused state and federal initiatives to support advanced manufacturing. Manufacturing industry sectors of interest included nanotechnology, plastics molding and medical devices, and life sciences manufacturing but we evaluated data across all manufacturing sectors, explicitly recognizing that advanced manufacturing techniques can and do occur across virtually all sectors. Research findings were based on the combination of industry data analysis, targeted informant interviews, and best practices and lessons learned. These findings have helped Berkshire County develop a focused, data-driven strategy to enhance and grow its advanced manufacturing sector.

Strategic Planning for Holyoke Chamber of Commerce and Foundation

In two closely related projects, Dan led strategic planning efforts for the Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce to help re-define and re-shape the Chamber’s mission, vision, objectives and prioritization of key activities. read more

For the Foundation, Dan helped research other 501c3 organizations around the country to help the Foundation completely update their Foundation mission, including the creation of a new Board to help implement stated objectives. For the Chamber of Commerce, Dan worked closely with a sub-committee of Board members to re-write the mission, create a new vision, and help clarify, organize and re-energize key Chamber activities for the coming year.