Laura James, CVEP’s vice president of innovation, earned the designation of Certified Economic Developer (CEcD), a national recognition that denotes a mastery of skills in economic development, professional attainment, and a commitment to personal and professional growth. Ms. James is the only Certified Economic Developer in the Coachella Valley, a distinction which sets her – and CVEP – apart.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) administered the CEcD Exam on March 19, 2022, and notified candidates of their results on March 25, 2025. With over 8 years of economic development experience, Ms. James has become a trusted economic development authority, helping Coachella Valley leaders navigate the effects of rapid political, technological, and environmental change as they strive to grow the regional economy in sustainable, meaningful ways.

The CEcD designation recognizes qualified and dedicated practitioners in the economic development field and sets the standard of excellence within the profession. Candidates must pass a rigorous and comprehensive examination, which has three parts and spans two days. The exam tests a practitioner’s knowledge, proficiency, and judgment in the following key areas of economic development:

● business retention and expansion
● finance & credit analysis
● marketing and attraction
● strategic planning
● entrepreneurial & small business development
● managing economic development organizations
● neighborhood development strategies
● real estate development & reuse
● technology-led economic development
● workforce development strategies
● foreign direct investment & exporting

As highly competent economic development professionals, Certified Economic Developers work with public officials, business leaders and community members to create leadership to build upon and maximize the economic development sector. Excellence in the economic development profession improves the wellbeing, quality of life and opportunities for individuals, businesses and communities. There are currently only 1,100 active CEcDs in the United States.