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Economic Development Proposal Instructions

Welcome to the SC2 Hartford Challenge

Over the course of eight (8) months starting February 4, 2014, your team is invited to submit an Economic Development Proposal (Proposal) to the City of Hartford. Your Proposal will be based on a comprehensive understanding of local, regional and global economic realities and will aim to foster long-term economic development, job creation and community prosperity.


There are two required and one optional sections of each Proposal. You must comply with all of these instructions. Once you have submitted your complete Proposal, Hartford staff will review it to ensure your compliance with the instructions. If your Proposal is not complete, then it may be excluded from further consideration. In order to submit a Proposal, you must also comply with the Terms & Conditions of the SC2 Hartford Challenge competition, including confirmation that any materials are unencumbered by rights of intellectual property and may be used, retained and utilized beyond your control.

The three sections allow you to cross-reference your materials. This is an important tactic that allows you to provide summary explanations with references to more detailed information. Understand that we anticipate receiving many Proposals, and you are asked to distinguish yourself by provoking greater interest in your ideas. So, it is not to your advantage to lead with complex explanations. Instead, you should plan to offer compelling and succinct presentations that will encourage the Judges to read more or to dig deeper into the details of your Proposal. Further, the judging criteria are heavily weighted to reward substance over style. A well articulated presentation is important, but you need to focus your time describing solutions that include cutting-edge concepts and ideas that could be applied to address real economic development challenges.

You are one among many other teams. If your team's Proposal is selected to receive a cash award, then your team is eligible to receive one of the following prizes:

  • 1st place:     $60,000
  • 2nd place:    $30,000
  • 3rd place:     $10,000

Also, those teams that receive the highest scores will be invited to participate in the second round of the SC2 Hartford Challenge as a Finalist, during which you will be competing against a smaller set of participants for larger cash awards. You will be provided the opportunity to expand upon your Proposal and develop a more comprehensive Economic Development Plan (Plan). Here is a set of Economic Development Planning Tips that offer some insight into what will be expected of you if you are selected to develop a Plan.

Your Proposal should aim towards two critical objectives. First, you will showcase your talent and potential for advancing to the next round. Judges want to know that you are capable of developing a more sophisticated Plan. Second, you are asked to deliver one discreet Economic Development Project (Project) within your proposal. The Project needs to represent your overall strategy. And it needs to provide sufficient detail, so that the City may consider it as a potential investment opportunity. Your Project needs to be practical and make sense within your larger Proposal. It needs to show that you are aware of cost implications and other concrete challenges, such as when the City could expect a return on the investment. When developing your Proposal, lead with a clear demonstration of your capabilities and showcase your talent by delivering a compelling and concrete example of your proposed recommendations.

SECTION 1: Executive Summary

Your team is required to submit a paper of no more than five (5) pages that summarizes your major points and the specific Project. Below is the outline for your Executive Summary. Cover the following points succinctly and expand upon them in the full body of your Proposal (see Section 2). Here is the outline:

  • Demonstrate that you have investigated regional and local economic development conditions by linking your recommendations to a broader understanding of those trends, particularly any that you feel would support your proposed solutions.
  • Provide a broad but compelling description of your general economic development strategy—explain why your approach is both innovative and practical; offer why and how you've adopted a particular approach.
  • Outline a proposed Project that best embodies your strategic approach. Offer context and explain how the Project is emblematic of an effective overarching plan or proposed "set of recommendations."
    • Be specific—describe how and when the Project will yield a net return on the investment and focus on why the Project may represent other related proposed activities.
    • Be accountable—identify where there may be a need for further development of the Project and be sure to offer a clear description of a pathway for resolving any outstanding issues; it is acceptable to admit that concepts may require more work, so long as you're demonstrating an ability to overcome challenges and resolve any threats to the proposed Project.
    • Be bold—don't be afraid of new or inventive ideas. Audacity counts, so long as it is rooted in sound economic principles and an understanding of the related risks for adopting your ideas.
  • Select the measure of your success. Whether you're measuring job creation or some other return on investment, make sure that you have modeled what and why you've chosen a particular metric or set of measures. Be as quantifiable as you can be.

NOTE: These points are a lot to cover in a five-page paper. So, it is essential that you reference or link to more sophisticated analysis and explanation that can be provided in the full body of the Proposal (See Section 2). Your job is to make the Judges want to read more and ask questions that you will answer in greater detail.

You will submit your Executive Summary by uploading a PDF file. This is the only file type that the system will accept. The Executive Summary must not exceed five (5) pages.

SECTION 2: Economic Development Proposal

This is your opportunity to showcase your level of effort and/or the depth of your research and investigation. The main body of your Proposal should not exceed 25 pages (including any appendices). The purpose of the main body of the Proposal is to provide a deeper set of explanations and copy from which you should cite references in the Executive Summary. You are welcome to include graphic illustrations of your findings, such as tables and figures. Those may be displayed however you feel is most appropriate. The full body of your Proposal will also include other detailed information.

Here is the outline:

  • Identify your Multidisciplinary Team members; let us know who you are and lead with your most credible accomplishments—it is okay to represent team members who are not typically associated with economic development work; in fact, we are inviting a broad diversity of expertise.
  • Publish your detailed analysis of regional and local economic conditions and trends; substantiate any claims made in the Executive Summary which would lend greater depth to your understanding of those issues.
  • Declare your broad strategic approach—based upon your previous analysis—including a justification and reasoning for using proposed tactics. Include a brief description of the economic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (i.e., "SWOT") that you considered. It is important to realize potential threats to your Proposal, but focus on your ability to address or overcome them. The SWOT framework is a required method of analysis in the second round, and you must show that you can use it if you are invited to participate.
  • Describe your proposed Project in detail; offer an explanation for why it embodies your larger strategy, why you have chosen it to showcase your capabilities, what it may offer as a stand-alone representation of any other considerations.
    • Include a description of the resource requirements to advance the Project. You must include draft budgets and explanations for any assumed expenses and/or other implied cost. Here, you are showcasing your ability to be concrete, to recognize practical limitations and to propose solutions that will demonstrate a focus on efficiency.
    • Explain how the Project will generate net benefits; at what point will the investment "pay off" for the City? How? Why? When? If it is relevant, you are welcome to include any explanation for how the proposed Project may scale or expand to include other projects.
  • Measure or project any intended outcomes. Adopt a system of metrics that allow you to focus on any or all of the following questions:
    • How will your Proposal impact industries and occupations (either growing or declining), and why?
    • What is the net impact on job retention and creation, and why?
    • Where will your Proposal have the greatest impact (declining or growing areas), and why?
    • When will the Proposal generate a net positive impact on the City and why? If you can, please look at or beyond a nine-year (9) timeline for making an impact.
    • Taking into consideration the regional and surrounding local economies, consider how the Proposal will both utilize those strengths and/or help to resolve those conditions.
  • Conclude with your most ambitious view for the future of the City and why your strategic approach is critical to realizing that vision.

You will submit the full body of your Proposal by uploading a PDF file. This is the only file type that the system will accept. The full body of your proposal must not exceed (25) pages.

SECTION 3: Video Presentation (Optional)

Each Proposal may include a short video presentation of no less than two (2) minutes but no more than five (5) minutes. When developing your video presentation, plan to cover the core elements in your Executive Summary. It is important to realize that by including video presentations in the required sections, we are not emphasizing style over substance. For some, the video presentation may be outside of your core competencies. We want you to focus on producing a sincere and thoughtful message. If you add a video, you will be responsible to upload your video to YouTube and copy the video's YouTube ID into the proposal submission page. Click here to see a short video showing how to identify a YouTube video ID. YouTube will accept any of the follwing format types:

  • WebM files: Vp8 video codec and Vorbis Audio codecs
  • .MPEG4, 3GPP and MOV files: Typically supporting h264, mpeg4 video codecs, and AAC audio codec
  • .AVI: Many cameras output this format—typically the video codec is MJPEG and audio is PCM
  • .MPEGPS: Typically supporting MPEG2 video codec and MP2 audio
  • .WMV
  • .FLV: Adobe-FLV1 video codec, MP3 audio

The video presentation must not exceed five (5) minutes.

Economic Development Plan Instructions



During Phase II, you will have fewer constraints. We feel that you have already set a course for your strategy and have provided a case study for how your ideas may be realized. Now, it is your responsibility to expand upon your Proposal. As you draft your Plan, please know that you are subject to the same Terms & Conditions of the first phase.

The U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA), has provided a comprehensive set of planning tips, with specific questions, answers, formatting and content considerations. Please review it and develop your Plan with those tips in mind.

There are two required and one optional sections of the Plan. In addition to the full body of your Plan, you will spend the next five (5) months soliciting and securing "letters of endorsement" from civic leaders and citizens. You also may provide a second video presentation, longer than the first. In addition, the Selection Committee members, who are responsible for judging your Plan, may request additional presentations, but those should be scheduled by appointment.

SECTION 1: Economic Development Plan

Unlike your previous effort, which started with a separate executive summary and followed with the full body of your Proposal, your Plan will be contained within a single and more comprehensive or detailed document – any executive summary will be included in your complete Plan. The Plan must be developed as a stand-alone set of materials, one that may be bound and distributed as the roadmap towards economic growth and prosperity for the city of Hartford. The Plan should include any and all graphics, budgets, project plans, appendices and reference materials. There is no separate means for presenting your metrics, projections of costs and returns on investment. All of those considerations need to be contained in the Plan itself.

Please refer to the outline from the EDA for the Planning Tips (Economic Development Planning Tips). You will submit the full body of your Plan by uploading a PDF file. This is the only file type that the system will accept. There is no page limit.

SECTION 2: Endorsements

A critical component of your Plan is the solicitation and submission of letters of endorsement from community leaders and/or the general public. You are asked to secure those letters from individuals and organizations representing the public interest and/or any specific community interests identified in your Plan.

There is no prescribed format for the letters of endorsement. They only need to be signed by the official representative of an organization making any claims of support. If they are provided by an individual, they need to show some specific reference to the proposed recommendations in your Plan. You are welcome to seek other forms of endorsements, such as petitions from the general public or other signs of popular support. You will submit Endorsements by uploading a single zip file of your individual Endorsements in a PDF file format; you may submit a single PDF file if you're offering only one Endorsement. These are the only file types that the system will accept. If you include a file type other than a PDF inside the zip file, you may be disqualified. There is no page limit to any Endorsement. We do not recommend including any petitions which contain individual signatures and/or long lists of supporters; those should be summarily described in a simple letter with a signature from a designated entity with the authority to validate the supporters. You may submit as many Endorsements as you like.

SECTION 3: Video Presentation (Optional)

There are two audiences for your optional video presentation. First and foremost, you will appeal to the Selection Committee members. However, we are also interested in publishing some of the video presentations to the public on websites and through other media channels. This time, you can present up to ten (10) minutes of video content.

You may upload your video presentation in any of the approved format types:

  • WebM files: Vp8 video codec and Vorbis Audio codecs
  • .MPEG4, 3GPP and MOV files: Typically supporting h264, mpeg4 video codecs, and AAC audio codec
  • .AVI: Many cameras output this format—typically the video codec is MJPEG and audio is PCM
  • .MPEGPS: Typically supporting MPEG2 video codec and MP2 audio
  • .WMV
  • .FLV: Adobe-FLV1 video codec, MP3 audio

The video presentation must not exceed the ten (10) minute limit.


As a Finalist, you are eligible for any one of the following cash awards:

  • 1st place:      $500,000
  • 2nd place:     $100,000
  • 3rd place:      $  75,000
  • 4th place:      $  50,000
  • 5th place:      $  50,000
  • 6th place:      $  25,000

Any requests for winning teams to participate in one or more awards ceremonies will be scheduled separately.

EDA Planning Tips

(U.S. Economic Development Administration)


Economic Development Plans: Structure, Format, and Content

The following guidance is provided to you by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA).  Selected Finalists will be asked to participate in the second phase of the SC2 Challenge by preparing and presenting Economic Development Plans. Those Plans will be much more comprehensive than the Proposals drafted in the first phase. To provide some context, these guidelines are available to understand how much more is required when anticipating your role as a Finalist. Please be aware that the following questions and answers represent general guidance. It is not essential that you follow each and every step when developing your Plan. You are allowed to make the most compelling case, however you see fit. But, it is critical that your presentation aligns with the needs and expectations of the City of Hartford and any regional or statewide considerations. The goal of the SC2 Hartford Challenge is to generate Economic Development Plans that both leverage local assets and compliment larger trends and opportunities. We hope that you will use the proposed structure, format and content guidelines as a helpful tool.


Formatting Your Ecomonic Development Plan

Good strategies do not have to be long documents

Final documents should not exceed 50 pages, with a three- to five-page executive summary containing key findings, opportunities, and initiatives. The executive summary, in particular, is an important (and useful) element. Decision makers need an executive summary to make informed choices based on a short, yet informative synopsis.

In addition, supporting data that does not directly link and support the strategies and messages within the plan should not be included in the document or, at the very least, relegated to an appendix (see below for more info on data).

Presentation is important

While the content of a plan is clearly the most significant factor, the organization developing the plan does itself a disservice if the document does not have a professional and appealing look-and-feel. Many groups will look to the plan as an indication of the City's capabilities and overall commitment to effective economic development. Also, the plan should not contain only text; plans should make use of professional photos, charts, and graphs to draw attention to and bolster the messages within the plan.

In addition, the plan should be crafted in whatever format provides the best mechanism to compellingly communicate the strategy within. In some instances, a plan may be best developed in a traditional Microsoft Word format. However, many strategy documents are now being developed using other formats, including Microsoft PowerPoint. Investigate recent strategy documents from consulting firms, research organizations and university centers for ideas on alternative formats for presentation. However, please note that your final submission must convert to a PDF file; so, make sure that the conversion does not corrupt the format, clarity, and quality of your materials.

Think beyond the document

When crafting the plan, applicants should think creatively about how the document (or specific portions) may be used as a vehicle to engage stakeholders in a meaningful conversation and debate about their region. Consider how the plan will translate into many of the new media strategies (e.g., podcasts, blogs, videos). Can portions of the plan document be showcased on a website? Different people consume information in different ways. Some people prefer to read shorter bits of text on websites and other people prefer longer, more traditional document formats. There are numerous examples of economic development organizations in urban and rural areas that have created engaging websites to complement their strategy documents.

Please take the time and make the effort to present the most strategic, clear and compelling economic development plan.


Drafting Economic Development Plan Content

In general, each Plan should support a framework that is results-oriented. Please focus on aligning and leveraging resources, including the public, private, and non-profit sectors (along with the general public), and emphasizing the importance of asset-based regional economic development. City-based plans should align with and inform greater regional economic development plans.

Each Plan will be unique, reflecting the specific challenges and opportunities of the City in question. It should contain, as mentioned previously, four main elements: summary background, SWOT analysis, strategy/action plan, and evaluation framework. The background should provide an overview of the economic situation enhanced by relevant data and information. The analysis should assess the state of the regional economy, the opportunities and threats posed by external trends and forces, and the availability of partners and resources for economic development. The community's vision and goals, together with an appraisal of the region's competitive advantage, should set the strategic direction for the action plan. The evaluation framework should establish criteria and performance measures for evaluation of the strategy and action plan and for the periodic update of the document.

  • Data analysis should be tied closely to the SWOT assessment. Many Plans focus too much on demographic information pulled directly from Census data and listed in tables and charts with little context or direct relationship to SWOT. Demographic data should be reviewed in order to identify key findings that are relevant to the SWOT, but not all of that information needs to go in the document. For example, if the data analysis reveals that a City's population is significantly older than the state or U.S. population as a whole, that's an important finding because it could impact workforce availability. However, it's not necessary to create detailed tables that break down population by age to prove that point—conserve space in the document by moving that sort of information to an appendix.
  • Incorporate potential projects in the implementation Plan and evaluation framework/performance measurements, not just as a stand-alone section of the document. Show how potential projects align with the findings from the SWOT assessment. However, as you are drafting other sections, feel free to incorporate specific references to any major project initiatives that would add substance or material considerations to the points that you are making.
  • Performance metrics for each plan should address:
    • Which conditions are important?
    • Which trends need to be reversed?
    • Which assets are available to be leveraged?
    • How will the plan help achieve Hartford's economic development vision?

Here are specific topics for data analysis (either in the background or the SWOT) and how they relate to potential implementation:

  • Identify clusters with a presence in the City (or region). Which clusters, and industries and occupations within the cluster, are growing or declining, and why? Identify firms belonging to these clusters and interview or survey them to collect input on opportunities and challenges facing the region.
  • Take a "workforce view" of the city's economy. Identify occupations or workforce skills that are more heavily concentrated in the region compared to state and national averages. Are these jobs growing or declining? How can these skills be leveraged to expand the economy? Are any shortages anticipated that need to be addressed?
  • Identify and map the most distressed areas of the city. What stands out about these areas in terms of workforce skills, educational attainment, demographics, etc.?
  • What is driving job creation or loss (i.e., startups or closures, expansions or contractions, firms moving into or out of the region)? Which industries and clusters are affected?
  • Identify sources of exports, foreign direct investment, and other activities like tourism bringing in new wealth to the region. How can these be expanded or accelerated?

Key questions that that should be asked when reviewing each plan (and proposal):

  • How does the Plan support a more resilient economy (and community) by focusing and targeting Hartford’s existing and potential competitive advantages?
  • How does the Plan foster a regional collaborative framework to strategically align public sector investments from federal, state and local sources, as well as private, nonprofit and philanthropic partners?
  • Does the Plan use modern scenario, data and analysis tools and planning techniques that provide policy makers, stakeholders and the public with evidence-based and factual information?
  • Was the process used to develop the Plan strategy-driven, focused on regional visioning, priority setting and performance outcomes? Or was it a broad-based encyclopedia or narrative of the region with a laundry list of projects and programs?
  • Does the Plan promote and support peer review and exchanges of planning professionals and policy officials with the goal of increasing collaboration across political boundaries, enhancing organizational resources, and positioning the Plan as a more effective building block for regional and potentially statewide strategies?
  • Does the Plan communicate in a compelling and contemporary style, including use of executive summaries, high quality print and online resources, social media and other complimentary presentations?
  • Did the Plan represent public, private, nonprofit and/or educational sector support, along with any signal of general public interest, in the development and implementation of its core strategic goals?

A strong Plan, therefore, will foster a strategic planning and implementation framework that is results-oriented. It will focus on aligning and leveraging resources, be inclusive of the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and emphasize the importance of asset-based regional economic development. It will identify clusters, take a workforce view of the city's economy, promote sustainable, place-based location choices, and identify the region's top wealth-creation activities (i.e., it's not just about jobs). It will specifically focus on making the City more resilient to economic shifts.

A strong Plan will effectively link its data analysis to the SWOT assessment, leverage existing tools to augment and bolster its summary analysis, be focused on strategies (and how to implement them), and incorporate prospective activities into the implementation/action Plan and evaluation framework, rather than just provide a stand-alone list of potential projects. It will consider and align (where appropriate) with other local and regional plans. Moreover, a strong plan will be relatively brief, contain an informative Executive Summary, and be presented in a professional, forward-thinking format that compellingly communicates its concepts to key stakeholders.