In 2007, I started a blog called Civic Analytics to write about the economy and the practice of economic development, particularly with respect to my adopted hometown of Austin (2002-2016). Writing evolved into public speaking and consulting opportunities, and Civic Analytics LLC was born.
Civic Analytics operated as a research and planning firm in 2012-2016, and then went on hiatus when I re-entered public service in Nashville, and remains so today. We worked with more than 50 clients across the U.S. over the course of the firm’s existence. It was a lot of fun.
This site is now back to its original purpose: a place to share thoughts about the economy, economic development, and whatever else piques my interest. Austin still makes cameos.
~ Brian Kelsey
I have worked in economic development since 2000, running organizations and advising clients of all sizes — from rural communities to the White House — on best practices in research, policy, and strategy.
In 2013, President Obama visited Manor New Tech High School and quoted the results of a study I did on the economic impact of the technology industry in the Austin area. PolitiFact rated Obama’s quote as “half true,” which was certainly the one and only time in my public service career that I have been responsible for a politician saying something that could be construed as less than 100% accurate.
I spent a year in Washington DC during the Obama Administration serving as a senior policy advisor at the Economic Development Administration (EDA), where we launched a new investment program in regional economies called the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge. We raised $37 million from 16 federal agencies and created a new model for inter-agency collaboration that is still in use today. The Center for American Progress featured it as a “big idea” in economic policy, and the Department of Commerce awarded our team a Gold Medal, the highest honorary recognition for its employees.
Department of Commerce Gold Medal Award citation:
“The group is recognized for its substantial innovative achievements in the area of Leadership in
developing and implementing the Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (Jobs Accelerator), an
inter-agency initiative that exemplifies how the Federal Government can work collaboratively in an
era of fiscal austerity to leverage existing Federal resources to support job creation. The initiative
implements the Obama Administration’s focus on a smarter use of federal resources and creates an
unprecedented platform for coordinating Federal economic development efforts.”
Prior to 2016, when hypocrisy was still something that mattered in politics and public discourse, Mitt Romney’s infamous framing of the Republican base as makers versus takers ran into a small problem: Of the 25 counties whose residents were most reliant on federal assistance programs, 21 counties voted for Romney in the 2012 Election. My analysis of that issue was highlighted by several prominent journalists, including Catherine Rampell at The New York Times, E. J. Dionne at The Washington Post, David Wessel at The Wall Street Journal, and author Daniel Pink.
Emsi, a leading provider of data for economic and workforce developers, invited me to be the keynote speaker at the company’s 2015 Annual Conference, where I talked about using data to tell stories that inspire action. This pre-conference Q&A held up pretty well.
My first job out of college was a one-year internship at the Sonoma County Economic Development Board in Santa Rosa, California, where I planned to briefly escape my hometown of Raleigh before returning to Chapel Hill for a Ph.D. and a career in academia. Plans changed after that year, and I knew I’d be working in economic development for the rest of my career. In 2016, it was a great pleasure to return to Sonoma County to help my former employer and other leaders in Sonoma and Mendocino counties create the region’s first-ever comprehensive economic development strategy and obtain District designation and funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.