Empowering Communities

ComEd Supports Training for Local Partners to Expand Regional Economic Development Work

November 16, 2022

ComEd is invested in the communities we serve. Many of our employees live in these communities, and we have a vested interest in supporting regional economic growth that brings jobs and opportunity throughout northern Illinois.

One way we are investing in the future of our communities is by sponsoring more local participation in the Basic Economic Development Course (BEDC) program – a unique training program designed to provide local economic development leaders with guidance on current industry best practices and industry trends in order to help bolster their recruitment and business development efforts.

For the past 15 years, ComEd has sponsored the program, supporting local partners from numerous economic development organizations (EDOs) as well as municipalities in participating in the training. The most recent class, held October 17-21, included 40 participants from throughout the state. Each year, ComEd sponsors a small number of scholarships to assist organizations with fewer resources in being able to attend the training.

“ComEd recognizes the value of continuous education and in the importance of enhancing the skillsets of our development partners to better compete in the global market,” said Ed Sitar, senior manager of economic development at ComEd, and a BEDC alum.  “This course is the perfect blend of the topics necessary to be an effective economic developer on the municipal, regional, or state level to help grow area economies with job creation and investment from new and expanding businesses.”

During the course, participants learn foundational elements of economic development – including site selection, business attraction, business retention, marketing and development and more as an accredited Economic Development education seminar for professionals with less than 10 years of experience, and individuals dedicated to expanding their economic development knowledge following the curriculum guidelines for accreditation by the International Economic Development Council. 

“Unlike most professions that focus on one specialization or skill, economic developers must have a broad range of knowledge about a dozen or more professions to be effective,” said Chris Manheim, instructor for BEDC. “The BEDC provides that foundation of skills and knowledge.”

With climate and sustainability goals top of mind for companies today, coordination with utility companies is a key aspect to successful business development projects. ComEd also partners with Nicor to recruit participants for the program.

“At Nicor Gas, we are committed to growing and enriching the more than 650 communities that we are proud to serve every day, in addition to helping businesses locate, stay and grow in Illinois,” said Erskine “Chuck” Faush, director of economic & community development at Nicor Gas. “For more than 15 years, we’ve been proud to work with ComEd to host the Illinois BEDC five-day course at our corporate headquarters in Naperville. During the course, those new to the economic development profession have an opportunity to learn from leading economic development professionals from across our state – which in turn helps boost knowledge of what it takes to support business expansion projects, expanding economic development expertise across our communities.”

For many of the 1,600 Illinois BEDC grads, participation in the program has helped meet a critical need in developing expertise in economic development – which is especially important for smaller and more rural communities, which tend to have fewer dedicated economic development resources, yet the desire to attract company investments still remains.

“When I first began my career in economic development, I was encouraged by our partners at ComEd to attend the 49th annual Illinois Basic Economic Development Course,” said Pam Lopez-Fettes, executive director of growth dimensions, the economic development organization serving Belvidere and Boone County. “In addition to the insightful exposure and tools I received, I was privy to valuable guidance from leading experts on best practices and partnerships for the attraction and retention of businesses.  This experience has been one of the foundations in my career as an economic developer and essential to helping drive strong outcomes here in Belvidere/Boone County.”

Growing yearly participation in the BEDC course supports ComEd’s partner efforts to expand economic investment projects, which has continued to see steady growth in northern Illinois in recent years. This includes the launch of the new 1.3 million square foot General Mills distribution center to be built in Belvidere, for which ComEd is delivering power supply and electrical upgrades. In addition, northern Illinois has attracted significant investment from the data center industry, with ComEd partnering with local economic developers to recruit and support the unique power needs of the industry. Last year alone, ComEd worked with local partners across northern Illinois to attract 16 new commercial projects, with collective commitments to invest $3.4 billion locally and create 4,700 new jobs for the region.

For more information on this program, please visit bedcillinois.com.