The cases profiled for this project reflect an extensive canvassing of federal, state, and local economic development organizations nationwide. More than 200 officials from these organizations were contacted and requested to provide information about best practices in exporting and FDI. A review of nearly 100 articles from academic literature, economic development journals, and trade magazines was conducted to identify examples of best practices in exporting and FDI. A web-based nomination process was also created to gather recommendations from economic developers online. These efforts yielded a set of more than 100 candidate best-practice cases.
These cases were then reviewed according to several criteria, including:
- ability of the practice to be replicated
- evidence of an ongoing program with measurable or describable outcomes
- willingness of the informant to participate in the data collection process
- ability of the case to contribute to a broad range of practices (including by geographic region as well as by type of practice).
The project team also wished to identify cases that were situated in a local community or region, or that could provide guidance for a local community or region. Although state and federal governments are commonly key actors in exporting and FDI, this collection of practices sought to provide direction for communities by emphasizing local and regional initiatives. Similarly, efforts with explicit or implicit industry clusters or target industries were given priority.
The selection process did not eliminate practices that lacked extensive quantitative outcomes. Most of the practices selected showed signs of success, even though a few were still in their early stages and thus did not have definitive quantitative evidence of outcomes. Because none of the cases can guarantee a successful, lasting result, the project team did not regard data on outcomes as a requirement for inclusion.
Finally, the profiled practices were written by multiple investigators. The write-ups were based on telephone interviews, newspaper articles and websites, and appraisals performed by external researchers.