Five earn certification from ECU Economic Development Academy

Five professionals are the first to be named North Carolina Certified Economic Developers after completing ECU’s Economic Development Academy program: from left, Cliff Brumfield, Cathy Barr, Will Carter, Mark Lawson and Candice Lowder. (Contributed photos)

In the first designation of its kind, five members of East Carolina University’s Economic Development Academy were named North Carolina Certified Economic Developers.

Each member of the inaugural class completed 84 contact hours to earn the certification, including courses in data and analytics, innovation and entrepreneurship, retention and expansion, and legal framework, among others.

The certification was created to provide continuing education and professional development courses for economic developers and to help boost the advancement of economic development leaders across the state.

“Our partnership with ECU for the N.C. Certified Economic Developer program has taken NCEDA’s leadership role in professional development to new heights,” North Carolina Economic Development Association President Randall Johnson said. “We congratulate our inaugural class of certification holders for their dedication to high standards in our field.”

Members of the inaugural certification class include:

  • Cliff Brumfield, executive director, Lincoln Economic Development Association
  • Cathy Barr, director of economic development, Ashe County Economic Development
  • Will Carter, director, Stokes County Economic Development
  • Mark Lawson, vice president economic development, Cary Chamber of Commerce
  • Candice Lowder, director, Stanly County Economic Development Commission

The designees were recognized at an event at the NCEDA annual conference on June 8.

Designed and implemented by ECU’s Division of Research, Economic Development and Engagement, the certificate’s curriculum focused on challenges and opportunities facing North Carolina-based communities. ECU and University of North Carolina at Wilmington faculty, as well as local industry leaders from WRAL Digital Solutions, Hayes Group Consulting LLC, Nexsen Pruet LLC, and Womble Bond Dickinson (US) LLP taught the courses.

“East Carolina University, alongside our public and private partners, is committed to supporting economic development in eastern North Carolina and across the state,” said Mike Van Scott, vice chancellor for research, economic development and engagement. “Developing leaders who create innovative solutions to economic challenges is central to our mission. We are excited to watch this program grow and to see the great things academy members will accomplish for their communities.”

Part of the university’s mission of progressing regional transformation in the east, the Economic Development Academy was announced in 2018. The only program of its kind in the state, the academy partners with other North Carolina universities, community colleges and nonprofit organizations in shaping and offering instructional programs around place-based economic development opportunities.

Academy members have the opportunity to participate in certification programs for economic development professionals, like the certified economic developers program. The academy offers credentialing to the staffs of local economic development organizations that enhance the prospects for success in their careers, organizations and communities. Classes include courses in legal, financial, ethical and other aspects of local economic development in a format that is practical and accessible.

Additional academy opportunities are customized around the unique needs, assets and opportunities of a specific county, town or city. For example, honors seminars hosted by the academy tailor one-day sessions for local government and elected officials to their unique community realities.

Economic development leaders interested in participating in the academy should contact ECU’s Office of Continuing and Professional Education by email at or register online.