Smart Incentives analyzes incentive offerings and program designs.

Ellen D. Harpel , Ph. D.

Ellen Harpel is the founder of Smart Incentives and president of Business Development Advisors LLC (BDA), an economic development and market intelligence consulting firm…

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Smart Incentives analyzes incentive offerings and program designs.

Darrene L. Hackler, Ph. D.

Darrene Hackler is an advisor to Smart Incentives and Business Development Advisors. Located in Sacramento, CA, she focuses on incentive policy on the west coast…

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To make economic development incentives work better for local, state and national governments. What does “better” mean? It means making sure incentives are used so that they demonstrably support the community’s economic development goals. We keep your incentives programs on target and focused on results.Good incentive programs are NOT handouts or giveaways to entice companies to relocate. Incentives are not just about winning a deal. Smart incentives programs connect to the community’s larger economic development strategy and help that community grow in the ways they desire.


We Do It

Smart Incentives helps economic development organizations achieve better outcomes by providing processes and solutions that make incentives easier to manage. We have developed Smart Incentives because we believe that it is vital for economic development groups to have access to high-quality business intelligence, data and analytical tools in order to make the best decisions for their communities. Smart Incentives is also at the forefront of efforts to develop better processes for monitoring compliance and evaluating the effectiveness of incentive programs.

[Smart Incentives does not work with companies seeking incentives]

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What Our Clients Say


“We needed a quick turnaround on research about emerging best practices for inclusive economic development. Smart Incentives delivered with a detailed memo that met all of our requirements and more. The memo informed many of the final recommendations we made to help our client successfully redesign their approach to economic development”

Troy Mix, University of Delaware, Institute for Public Administration

“In her course on Economic Development Policy, Dr. Harpel presented information in an engaging and accessible manner. She respected the audience, tailoring the material to finance professionals without bogging us down in technical detail. Attendees leaving the session reported better understanding of tax incentives and their implications for county treasurers and tax collectors.”

Professor Brady Baybeck, Education Coordinator for NACCTFO / UMSL Chancellor’s Certificate in Public Administration and Policy

“During my tenure with Tennessee’s Department of Economic and Community Development, I had the privilege of working with Smart Incentives on a number of initiatives. Ellen proved to be an incredibly effective “Sherpa” of the incentives review process; providing timely insight and subject matter expertise that afforded our department the framework to be fully introspective on our competitive positioning in the global economy.”

Ted Townsend, Chief Economic Development & Government Relations Officer, The University of Memphis

“Ellen led two immensely informative webinars for our organization. Her expertise and knowledge of equitable economic development has been an invaluable addition to our program, and her technical applicability of concepts to real case studies contributed greatly to our success. Working with Ellen is truly a pleasure, and I look forward to keep collaborating with her in the future.”

Carlos Delgado, National League of Cities

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