Smart Incentives analyzes incentive offerings and program designs.

Ellen D. Harpel , Ph. D.

Ellen Harpel is the founder of Smart Incentives, which helps communities make sound decisions throughout the economic development incentives process. She is also president of Business Development Advisors LLC (BDA), an economic development and market intelligence consulting firm in Arlington, VA. Smart Incentives serves governments and economic development organizations. Our focus is ensuring that incentives support community objectives and help places grow in the way their residents desire. Smart Incentives is also at the forefront of efforts to develop more robust processes for monitoring compliance and evaluating the effectiveness of incentive programs.

PhD Regional Economics, Schar School of Policy and Government, George Mason University

Master of Business Administration, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina

Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service, Georgetown University


Vermont Department of Financial Regulation
Effectiveness of Incentive Programs in Attracting
New Workers (with PFM)
Montpelier, VT

Business Oregon
Strategic Assessment of Incentives
Salem, OR

State of Oklahoma Incentive Evaluation Commission
Oklahoma City, OK

Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation
Incentives for Entrepreneurial Firms
Kansas City, MO

CREC and SEDE Network
Repositioning Incentives
Arlington, VA

Pew Charitable Trusts, Reflecting Community Priorities in Economic Development Practices
Washington, DC

Franklin County Economic Development and Planning
Economic Development Strategic Plan
Franklin County, OH

Prosper Portland
Business & Industry Team Metrics
Portland, OR

Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development
Economic Development Strategic Plan (with CREC)
Salt Lake City, UT

Michigan Economic Development Corporation
Michigan Business Development Program Effectiveness Study
Lansing, MI

City of Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City Incentives Study (with CDFA)
Kansas City, MO

Economic Development Alliance
Competitive Economic Development
Incentives Analysis
Jefferson County, AR

Invest Atlanta
External Review of Incentives
Atlanta, GA

Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
Management Review and Recommendations (with CREC)
Madison, WI

Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission
Advancing Opportunity in Somerset County, PA (with EntreWorks)
Somerset, PA

Stephen S. Fuller Institute, George Mason University
Changing Nature of Work Series: Gig and Independent Work
Arlington, VA

Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness
The Pew Charitable Trusts Business Incentives Initiative
State Data Sharing Initiative
Washington, DC

Maryland Department of Commerce
Economic Development Incentives and Financing Study (with CREC)
Baltimore, MD

Incentive Training and Workshops
I. Investment Incentives and Sustainable Investments
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
II. Intro Incentives Course
Council of Development Finance Agencies
III. Designing and Managing Business Incentive Compliance Programs
Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness

I. Certification Course on International Investment and Sustainable Development
World Association of Investment Promotion Agencies, Istanbul
II. Improving the Use of Investment Incentives in the Southern Mediterranean Region
EU-OECD, Amman
III. Policy Guidelines to Develop Colombia’s ICT Ecosystem
MIT Technology Review and MinTIC, Colombia

Years In Business

Years of Experience

Active Partners

Workshops & Presentations

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