Generating economic opportunities for people and places by informing programs and policies

The RTI Center for Applied Economics and Strategy designs, informs, and evaluates programs that strive to create good jobs, spur entrepreneurship and innovation, diversify the industry base, and align workforce skills with industry demands. Our team leverages the macro-level expertise of RTI International’s scientists, technologists, and economists to adapt these insights for local and regional economic development benefits. Each one of our projects is distinct and designed to accommodate unique characteristics of the people, culture, and innovation and entrepreneurial assets in the location of focus. Our team has partnered with clients in more than 25 U.S. states and in over 10 countries; these locations span a range of social, political, and economic contexts. 

The economic development field is multidisciplinary, collaborative, and action-oriented. We partner with our clients to design and implement efficient and rigorous research projects that translate complex challenges and data into applied insights and solutions. Our work results in actionable strategies, data partnerships, and independent evaluations and impact studies.

Strategies and Blueprints

Our economic development strategies foster growth and economic mobility by leveraging the innovation, cultural, and human assets of a city, region, or state. In our strategies, we often include industry cluster analyses that track industry growth or decline over time and forward-looking market analyses from RTI’s Innovation Advisors to help determine future areas for competitive growth. Our analysts often scan leading-edge practices to generate new ideas for our clients to consider, and we provide benchmarking analyses to help clients gauge economic performance compared to similar cities, states, and countries. 

Experts design strategies to grow industry sectors, such as Tennessee’s life sciences industry, and to create innovation corridors for more broad-based growth within a 100-mile radius of RTI’s headquarters in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. We advise emerging economies around the world about ways to ascertain pathways for innovation-driven development. 

Data Collection, Analysis, and Metrics

Our clients often seek a stronger understanding of their economic landscape with data. Our data analysts conduct analyses with publicly available data; when needed, we deploy efficient and user-friendly surveys within communities to gain insights into performance and perception that only stakeholders and observers can provide. Our economic development practice provides a powerful combination of data collection, data analysis, and data visualization that blends macro-level information with micro-level nuance. Multiyear talent surveys in economic regions across North Carolina and a State of the Region website and data dashboard for the Tampa Bay Partnership are recent examples of data partnerships.


Independent and objective evaluations help program and policy leaders communicate the impacts of their efforts, understand what is working, and adjust program design to achieve greater impacts. Staff members with backgrounds in policy, planning, and economics work together to design and complete evaluations that bring data-driven insights to funders, program directors, and other stakeholders who seek ways to improve their impacts. Examples of evaluations include an assessment of the economic, environmental and community impacts of Facebook’s U.S. data centers; an entrepreneurial support program of Venture Catalysts in Oregon; process evaluations for city-level programs invested in by the Living Cities Foundation; and the outcomes of broadband and technology investments made by the Appalachian Regional Commission. 

Together, our three service offerings equip the economic development community with the information and insights to foster more competitive, balanced, and equitable economies for the people who live and work in them.

The Idea Lab for Equitable Economic Development

The Idea Lab is a virtual platform that brings voices from a variety of people, places, and perspectives on how to improve equitable economic development. It hosts in-depth articles and interviews on research and practice to advance the field. 

Explore about The Idea Lab for Equitable Economic Development

Building Better Regions Community of Practice

The Build Back Better Regional Challenge (BBBRC) aims to boost economic recovery from the pandemic and rebuild American communities. Sixty coalitions made up of public, private, nonprofit, and higher education stakeholders across the country are seeding and scaling regional growth through BBBRC awards. RTI International and SSTI coordinate the Building Better Regions Community of Practice to foster long-term connections and collaborations among these coalitions.

Learn More about Building Better Regions Community of Practice

Triangle J Council of Governments, Well-Being of the Public Sector Workforce

We surveyed 300+ local government leaders across the region to provide insights on the state of our public sector workforce and drivers of employee well-being, turnover, recruiting, and retention.

Learn More about Triangle J Council of Governments, Well-Being of the Public Sector Workforce