10 for 10: Economic Development

As we continue our year-long celebration of ten years of service, we are proud to recap work performed under our economic development practice in the latest 10 for 10 review. Discover more about the wide array of work we do in this field below.  


1. Economic Analysis of Detroit’s Food System 

In 2014, ESI was commissioned by the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative (now merged with the Detroit Food Policy Council) to produce an economic analysis of Detroit’s food system. With input from ESI senior advisor Catherine Timko and former senior advisor Gregory Heller, the economic analysis determined that the Detroit food system produces $3.6 billion in revenue and directly employs over 36,000 people earning close to $1 billion in salaries and wages per year in the City of Detroit. Additionally, including Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties, the food system in the Detroit Metro area is responsible for $45.8 billion in economic impact, supporting 59,000 jobs and about 1.9 billion in wages and earnings per year.  

Read the report here.

2. Comparative Analysis of Innovation Districts 

In 2016, ESI was retained by Wexford Science + Technology, LLC to conduct a comparative analysis of innovation districts across the United States, aiming to validate University City in Philadelphia as a business location of choice. ESI looked at Kendall Square in Cambridge, Oakland in Pittsburgh, South Lake Union in Seattle, and University City. The study showed that University City is the highest-performing site among its peers. The results suggested that University City can compete well head-to-head with these other locations on the fundamentals that matter the most to tenants that it and others are seeking to attract, and thus can add to the roster of existing firms that have chosen University City as a business location to locate and grow. 

Read the report here.

3. Charting the Multiple Meanings of Blight 

ESI worked with the Vacant Properties Research Network in 2016 to conduct a national literature review on blight for Keep America Beautiful, a national nonprofit. This report examines more than 300 academic articles, as well as special policy and practitioner reports devoted to the concept of blight. It also provides a contemporary snapshot of how researchers, experts and practitioners describe and understand the complex conditions that create blight and the policy responses that communities are taking. The report concludes with a series of recommendations for Keep America Beautiful and its community-based affiliates and practical actions local governments and community leaders can take.  

Read the report here.

4. The State of Cell and Gene Therapy in the Greater Philadelphia Region 

First completed in 2019, and most recently updated in 2022, ESI completed a comparative analysis of the state of cell and gene therapy for the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. ESI found that Philadelphia ranked second overall among 14 major hubs of cell and gene therapy in the U.S.  

Additionally, a concentration of research infrastructure is one of the most important resources in creating a biomedical innovation hub, primarily in the form of top-tier research universities, which serve as the magnet for human capital, research grants, and corporate partnerships. Strong patent and clinical trial activity in Greater Philadelphia include over 300 CGT patents approved over the last decade and approximately 130 clinical trials of novel therapies held. In addition to the research and capital needed to become a world class CGT hub, Greater Philadelphia is an extremely livable region, boasting some of the world’s best museums, top notch restaurants, and large open spaces at a comparatively affordable price. 

Read the report here.

5. The Economic Impact of Montana Film Production: An Analysis of the Industry and the MEDIA Act 

The production of feature films, television series, and commercials can generate significant economic activity for their host communities, drawing out-of-town spending, generating jobs, and supporting local businesses. Because of this potential boost to local economies, many states provide incentives to attract productions as an economic development initiative. 

In 2020, the Montana Film Office retained ESI to quantify the economic impact of Montana film production and the Montana Economic Development Industry Advancement Act (MEDIA Act). The MEDIA Act was created to provide a transferable income tax incentive to attract film, television, and other media production to the State. 

Our report provided an analysis of the economic, fiscal, and societal impacts from film and television production in the State and specifically evaluates the impacts associated with the MEDIA Act Tax Credit Program. Impacts were evaluated for film, television, and other production activity over an 18-month period (January 2019–June 2020). This analysis has since been updated with data through June of 2022.  

Read the report here.

6. Williamsburg Vibrancy, Design, and Marketing Plan 

ESI, along with Group Melvin Design and The Riddle Company, was commissioned by the Williamsburg Economic Development Office and Planning Department to aid with the development of a sustainable downtown marketing and design strategy.  

The team gathered information about public spaces, amenities, architecture, and streetscape elements. In addition to stakeholder interviews and community engagement, the team also conducted a retail market and merchandise analysis. We were able to deliver a series of recommendations, including tools and tactics to help advance the downtown’s overall vibrancy.  

Learn more here.

7. New York City’s Nightlife Economy 

ESI, in partnership with North Highland and Urbane Development, completed the first ever economic impact study on the City of New York’s nightlife economy. While not always the first consideration when it comes to the economy, nightlife, arts, and entertainment are critical pieces of what makes a city attractive to new and current residents, as well as the wider regional economy. This includes people who work at night, manage nighttime activities, and those who enjoy nightlife.  

This study presented a snapshot of nightlife in New York City, including data on challenges in hiring and working, transportation, economic impact by borough.  

NYC’s Nightlife Economy: Impact, Assets, and Opportunities was commissioned by The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and reports on: 

  • Direct impact of New York City’s nightlife economy and historic trends across subsectors and geographies. 
  • Total economic impact of New York City’s nightlife economy, including indirect, induced, and ancillary spending as well as fiscal impact. 
  • Case studies of the nightlife economy within each borough. 
  • Specialized geospatial analyses of establishment distribution and historic taxi/Uber/Lyft trip demand during key nightlife hours. 

Read the report here.

8. The Economic Value of Protected Open Space in Chester County, PA 

ESI was commissioned by the Natural Lands Trust, the Chester County Planning Commission and a coalition of funders and business leadership to update a 2010 report on the economic value of open space in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Since the original report, the amount of protected open space has increased significantly to 208.01 square miles. 

Our report found that open space adds economic value through home and property values, economic activity, environmental services, and direct use benefits – health and recreation. 

This study concluded that investments in open space preservation support the Chester County economy by increasing property values, supporting economic activity, reducing environmental costs, and supporting a healthier populace. 

Read the report here.

9. Pennsylvania Agriculture: A Look at the Economic Impact and Future Trends 

Agriculture has a long rich history in Pennsylvania and has been a driving force of the state’s economy for centuries. While the number of Pennsylvanians farming has decreased, the importance of agriculture to the Commonwealth’s economy has not. 

In 2018, Team PA, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, commissioned ESI and Temple University’s Fox School of Business to examine the many diverse forms of agriculture produced in Pennsylvania: from crop and animal production, food and beverage processing and manufacturing, to forestry and landscaping. 

The ESI team determined that Agriculture directly accounts for approximately $83.8 billion in economic output and over $22.7 billion in value add, and it supports over 280,500 jobs and $10.9 billion in earnings. Within the agriculture sector, food processing and manufacturing is the largest sub-sector, accounting for nearly 60 percent of the economic output and 32 percent of the total direct employment. Production agriculture, which includes crops and animals, accounts for approximately 10 percent of the total direct output ($9.2 billion) but  generates 29 percent of the total direct employment. 

Read the report here.

10. The Impacts of East Central Wisconsin’s Bike and Pedestrian Facilities on the Regional Economy 

Bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure networks provide valuable economic, environmental, and public health benefits to the communities they serve. However, these impacts are often understated or overlooked when considering investment of these networks within communities. In 2022, the East Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission hired ESI to conduct an economic, environmental, and health impact analysis of their plan to connect bicycle and pedestrian facilities across east central Wisconsin. ESI’s analysis found that implementing this plan would reduce vehicle miles traveled by 17.5 million, generate $84 million in economic impact, and save frequent trail users $69 million in aggregate annual costs.  

 Read the report here.

 You can read our other 10 for 10 posts here: 

10 for 10: Universities and Hospitals
10 for 10: Transportation and Infrastructure
10 for 10: Real Estate


Gina Lavery, Senior Vice President & Principal | [email protected]

Gina Lavery is Senior Vice President and Principal of Econsult Solutions, Inc. (ESI). Ms. Lavery has led a range of projects for ESI, primarily focused on urban planning, real estate, transportation, higher education, and public policy—particularly where these areas intersect with economic development.

Share This