fbpx State and Local Economic Development | Harvard Kennedy School
Rafael Carbonell Photo

Rafael Carbonell

Adjunct Lecturer in Public Policy


Economic development is a top priority for governors, county executives, mayors, and civic leaders, who struggle with defining and executing viable strategies and policies that have impactful and equitable outcomes. In both thriving and distressed regions, strong cultural, political, and market forces constrain decision making and create increasingly competitive battles among states, counties, and cities, which often find themselves obligated to use tax incentives and public subsidies to lure large companies and top talent. Left unanswered in this race for resources is “economic development for whom and to what end?”

This course will survey the history and evolution of state and local economic development, provide an understanding of the politics, players, and influencers involved, and discuss analytical frameworks for assessing which policy tools are effective and under what conditions. We will explore what to do with regions in distress using a systematic comparison and evaluation of place-based policies, analyze the role and impact of innovation in economic development, and challenge the lack of equity and inclusion in designing economic development policy.

The format is two weekly class meetings, one a lecture informed by cases and readings and the other a guest lecture by a leading economic development thinker or practitioner, who will represent regions from across the United States. The course is designed for significant student engagement, and will provide coaching and mentoring opportunities for students considering a career in state and local economic development.