About CREC

The Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) is an independent, not-for-profit organization founded to provide policy-makers from around the world with the information and technical assistance they need to formulate and execute innovative, regional, job-creating economic strategies.

Our staff members come from around the globe, bringing with them diverse backgrounds, and world-class skill sets.

CREC fellow

Ellen D. Harpel
Senior Research Fellow

Ellen Harpel is the founder and president of Business Development Advisors LLC (BDA), an economic development and market intelligence consulting firm. Dr. Harpel is also the founder of Smart Incentives, which helps communities make sound decisions throughout the economic development incentives process.

Established in 1999, BDA works with economic development leaders at the local, state and national levels to increase business investment and job growth in their communities. We work with our clients to provide insight into the growth drivers of today’s economy, establish data-driven policies and practices, and deliver business intelligence on target industries and companies. BDA’s services provide practical information that supports the day-to-day activities of economic developers.

Launched in 2013, Smart Incentives serves economic development organizations by providing in-depth business research on companies seeking incentives and conducting thorough business case analysis for incentive projects. Smart Incentives is also at the forefront of efforts to develop better processes for monitoring compliance and evaluating the effectiveness of incentive programs. Dr. Harpel speaks and writes frequently on incentive policies and programs.

Prior to founding BDA, Dr. Harpel was a manager with the professional services firm Deloitte & Touche, where she advised economic development organizations on business attraction, growth and retention strategies through the Fantus Consulting division. She also served as an Associate with Charles Percy & Associates, an international business advisory firm in Washington, DC, where she worked with US companies to expand their markets overseas. She has also worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Home Builders. Through these experiences Dr. Harpel has gained a broad knowledge of the economic and market factors that drive growth and development in businesses and communities.

Dr. Harpel is a Senior Research Fellow with the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and an affiliate with the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. She is a member of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), Lambda Alpha International, the European Association for Research on Services (RESER), and the Virginia Economic Developers Association.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

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