About C2ER

The Council for Community and Economic Research

C2ER Staff

Kenneth E. Poole
Kenneth E. Poole

Executive Director
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1016
Email: kpoole@crec.net
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Dr. Kenneth (Ken) E. Poole is the Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness. Dr. Poole has managed economic development research, analysis, and technical assistance efforts for 35 years. Dr. Poole co-founded CREC in January 2000 as an independent non-profit focused on assisting policy-makers use data to develop a stronger understanding of how state and regional economies can compete effectively in the evolving, knowledge-based economy.

Dr. Poole manages the organization’s strategic planning, information sharing, research, and professional training activities, including the development of customized training in regional economic research techniques.  At CREC, he has assisted in dozens of research, planning, and technical assistance consulting projects for clients across the U.S. including:

  • national foundations (e.g., Pew Charitable Trusts, Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Laura and John Arnold Foundation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation),
  • federal economic and workforce development agencies (e.g., U.S. NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership, U.S. DoD Office of Economic Adjustment, U.S. Economic Development Administration, Appalachian Regional Commission, U.S. Treasury Department, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis),
  • state economic and workforce development agencies (e.g., Arizona Commerce Authority, North Carolina Department of Commerce, Georgia Governor’s Office of Workforce Development, Louisiana Economic Development, Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, Virginia Economic Development Partnership, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation),
  • regional economic and workforce development organizations (e.g., 7 Rivers Regional Alliance WI, Centralina Council of Governments, Momentum West Wisconsin EDC, Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, Western Piedmont (NC) Council of Governments, Texoma Regional Consortium, Roanoke Valley-Allegheny (VA) Regional Council),
  • educational institutions (e.g., Henry Ford Community College, Catawba Valley Community College, Western Iowa Technical and Community College, University of North Carolina), and
  • local government agencies (e.g., Erie County PA Planning, City of El Paso Planning and Economic Development, Knox County Metropolitan Planning Organization).

In those projects, Dr. Poole has conducted quantitative and qualitative analyses of economies and program impacts, facilitated strategic leadership planning sessions, as well as provided technical assistance on economic and workforce development program design and strategy.

As Executive Director of the national nonprofit membership organizations, the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), the Labor Market Information Institute, the Association of Public Data Users, and the Projections Managing Partnership, Dr. Poole oversees all program development activities, including information dissemination about news related to the Federal statistical agencies, the development of research and professional training activities, as well as organizing national conferences for the different professional networks. Building on his vision and leadership, C2ER and the LMI Institute have become national leaders in providing regional economic analysis training to economic and workforce development analysts serving Federal, state, and local agencies.  At the same time, APDU has become a national resource for the Federal statistical system.

Before establishing CREC, Dr. Poole served six years as the Director of Domestic Economic Development for the National Association of State Development Agencies and eight years as the Director of Technical Assistance and Research for the National Council for Urban Economic Development (now the International Economic Development Council).

He serves on the editorial board of Economic Development Quarterly (EDQ) and on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Data Users Advisory Council.  In 2017-18, Dr. Poole edited a special issue of the EDQ focused on manufacturing policy issues.  Dr. Poole also speaks frequently to national and state-level audiences of policy-leaders and economic development professions on the challenges of data-driven regional economic planning and development.

Ken obtained a Doctor of Philosophy degree in Public Policy with a concentration in Regional Development Policy from George Mason University, a Master in Public Administration degree from American University, and a Bachelor of Arts degree from UNC at Chapel Hill.  In 2016, he received the Innovation in Local Employment Dynamics Award from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Sean McNamara
Sean McNamara

Administrative Director
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1010
Email: sam@crec.net
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Sean McNamara is currently serving as the Chief Operating Officer for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), the Administrative Director for the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER, formerly ACCRA), the Chief Administrative Officer for the Labor Market Information (LMI) Training Institute, and the Administrator for the Association of Public Data Users (APDU).  Prior to his current managerial capacity, Mr. McNamara’s career has focused on the evaluation of the management of state and local economic development, the design of local and federal economic development initiatives, including enterprise zones, and the impact of various community development initiatives.

At the present time, Mr. McNamara manages the business aspect of CREC, C2ER, the LMI Training Institute, and APDU, overseeing, among other duties the:  production and maintenance of firm financials; organization marketing and communication strategy and execution; logistical coordination and operations; office and human resource management; Board of Director relations; and essential administrative tasks and troubleshooting.  Additionally, Mr. McNamara supports organizational leadership in maintaining and building strategic relationships with clients and partner firms, and organizes the CREC Conference and LMI Forum, which annually host nearly 400 attendees in different cities across the country.

Before CREC and C2ER, Mr. McNamara served as the CEO of McNamara Associates, a management consulting organization where he provided research, facilitation, project coordination, and management assistance to several state and local economic development association clients.  These clients included the American Association of Enterprise Zones (AAEZ), The National Association of State Development Agencies (NASDA), and the National Council of Urban Economic Development (CUED, now IEDC).  As CEO, Mr. McNamara oversaw various research and data analysis initiatives, and the production of technical assistance reports and communication releases. He also was responsible for maintaining project schedules, organizing national conferences, and supporting client efforts in data collection and dissemination. During his tenure, McNamara Associates produced a national database of state economic development incentives, published case studies outlining the successful of state enterprise zones and federal empowerment zones, and organized the 1996 AAEZ Annual Conference with keynote speaker, then-Vice President, Al Gore.

Before transitioning into economic development, Mr. McNamara gained 15 years experience in residential and commercial design. He served as Senior Project Manager for Ryland Homes, a national home construction firm, managing their home accessories design stores, and held a number of positions with commercial/home design and home furnishings firms.

Mr. McNamara earned both a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Erol Yildirim
Erol Yildirim

Senior Vice President, New Products
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1014
Email: ey@crec.net
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Erol Yildirim currently serves as the Senior Vice President for New Product Development for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) and its sister nonprofit, the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). He serves as CREC’s Chief Economist and Chief Data Scientist. He also oversees the Center’s web and database infrastructure. Before taking his current roles, Mr. Yildirim managed the Cost of Living Index (COLI) project for five years.

As Senior Vice President for New Product Development, Mr. Yildirim oversees all of the program development activities for C2ER. Mr. Yildirim’s primary responsibilities include:  managing new product development and dissemination activities for C2ER, enhancing existing data products, managing customer relations with data subscribers and licensees, responding to media inquiries, and staffing C2ER’s Cost of Living Index Technical Advisory Board.

As Chief Economist and Data Scientist, Mr. Yildirim models and estimates the County and State Level Cost of Living Index. He created the Integrated Manufacturers Database, working with more than 54 million records, to analyze the characteristics of manufacturers and estimate client impacts for Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). Mr. Yildirim also serves as technical and content support for various consulting assignment and supports the C2ER training and educational program.

As Web Project Manager, Mr. Yildirim is currently constructing workforce intelligence tools for the Multi-State Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (M-SAMC) to help college faculty and staff make more informed, demand-driven decisions about program development, investments, placement strategies, and industry partnerships. Mr. Yildirim also helped redesign Arizona State’s workforce website with the goal of increasing efficiency of data collection and the dissemination of labor market information to a variety of customers by using Web Service and Web 2.0 Technologies. The project also involved conducting an extensive customer survey, and holding focus group sessions related to web usage and data needs. In addition, as part of this project, Mr. Yildirim designed, developed, and released a statewide database program allowing Arizona’s State Energy Sector Partnership to track and gather data on the type of employees and the training requirements for the program’s targeted industries, and a Visual Basic Application that would allow the Department of Commerce to project state and county population levels moving forward.

Mr. Yildirim uses his technical skills and certifications to design online surveys customized to individual client needs, designs curricula for economic and workforce developers and teaches Advanced Excel, Relational Database, and Tableau classes for preparing, analyzing, and visualizing socioeconomic data. He also developed e-commerce sites for both C2ER and COLI, and created a national, searchable database structure for the C2ER State Incentives and State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database.

Among his most recent accomplishments is the creation of the C2ER Library Application – a tool allowing access to all C2ER data products, including Historical Cost of Living Index (COLI) and the Cost of Living Index Web Calculator, via IP authentications .  Mr. Yildirim also designed and implemented the Cost of Living Index Price Collector software, a web-based application that allows the data collectors to enter and submit their local data over the web and for C2ER staff to review these 100,000 plus data points in a timely manner.

Before joining C2ER in 2002, Erol Yildirim worked as a Business Manager at Mason Enterprise Center, Mentor Protégé Program. He supported a Department of Defense program and served as a vehicle and catalyst for building long-term business relationships between major US Department of Defense contractors and small, disadvantaged businesses.

Mr. Yildirim has practical and educational experience in information systems and web development. His programming skills include Visual Basic, ASP, ASP.net, Oracle PL/SQL, SPSS, Stata, Python, and Tableau.

Erol Yildirim holds a Master of Economics degree from George Mason University, specializing in Public Finance and Monetary Economics, and a master’s degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Financial Economics. He has completed all of the courses towards a doctorate in economics.  He currently serves on the National Advisory Board of National Elder Economic Security Initiative and advises the Bureau of Labor Statistics International Committee.

Mark Troppe
Mark Troppe

Senior Vice President
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1017
Email: mtroppe@crec.net
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Mark Troppe is Senior Vice President at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), where he serves on the executive management team in guiding the organization’s future.  He leads key projects; collaborates with other senior team members to develop and implement a research, technical assistance, and training strategy; provides senior leadership to association clients; and helps develop resources and new business in support of the organization’s mission.

Specifically, Mr. Troppe guides staff working on workforce information-related associations (Labor Market Information Institute and Projections Managing Partnership). He leads the EDA project on “International Engagement Ready Communities” to conduct research on regional strategies to attract foreign direct assistance and promote exports and is developing a toolkit to assist economic development professionals. He helps implement the NIST MEP state relations program and the Defense Industry Adjustment technical assistance program.

Over the prior 30 years, Mr. Troppe held a variety of economic and workforce development positions in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. Mr. Troppe worked for 15 years at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program. Most recently, he led the Partnerships and Program Development division that oversaw program development and MEP’s partnerships with other Federal agencies, Governors, and industry associations. Mark led MEP’s outreach to Governors and state economic development leaders to coordinate re-competition of MEP Center operations in 40+ states over three years, and oversaw MEP’s involvement in several multi-agency initiatives (e.g., Jobs and Innovation Accelerator grants, Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership, POWER initiative). In addition, division staff worked with MEP Centers, federal, state, and industry partners to develop and deploy programs and services to help manufacturers enhance their competitiveness. These included efforts to accelerate technology adoption by SMMs, deliver supply chain optimization services, and address workforce issues.

While at NIST, Mr. Troppe had one-year temporary assignments in the Office of U.S. Senator Chris Coons (2016-2017) working on manufacturing, technology, and innovation issues as an ASME Congressional Fellow, and with the White House Council on Automotive Communities and Workers during the Great Recession (2009-2010), focusing on providing assistance to companies in the manufacturing supply chain.

From 2000-2007, Mr. Troppe worked at the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) as director of economic and workforce development. At NCEE, Mr. Troppe wrote about, developed courses, and delivered training on the nature of and opportunities for effective collaboration between workforce and economic development organizations. Prior to that, he worked as Director of Training for US Web’s internet hosting division; and as Director of Kids and the Power of Work (KAPOW), a non-profit that promoted career awareness with elementary school youth.  He started his career as a Presidential Management Fellow in 1984 and worked for ten years with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration.

Mr. Troppe holds a Master of Arts in Development Economics degree from Essex University in England; a Master of Public Administration degree from the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas-Austin; and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Virginia.

Martin Romitti
Martin Romitti

Senior Research Fellow
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1026
Email: mromitti@crec.net
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Dr. Martin (Marty) Romitti serves as Senior Fellow at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC). Dr. Romitti has 20 years of professional experience helping federal, state, regional and local organizations and leaders to research, formulate, and execute on strategies that promote effective public policy, job creation and long-term economic sustainability. As a recognized leader on complex projects, training, facilitation and for innovative research design, he has led dozens of studies, technical assistance efforts and earned multiple national awards for excellence. Among his focus areas, Dr. Romitti conducts program evaluations on national, state, regional and local efforts to spur economic and job growth including the use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches to measure outcomes and determine effective levers for future action.

Recent project work includes examining the effectiveness of the Appalachian Regional Commission’s 50-year involvement in the 13-state region it serves; evaluating the benefits from DoD’s Office of Economic Adjustment-Defense Industry Adjustment awards; outcomes in the areas of lending and venture capital for the US Treasury Department’s State Small Business Credit Initiative; reports on manufacturing opportunities for the NIST- Manufacturing Extension Partnership program; and developing best practices for the use of business incentives in partnership with the Pew Charitable Trusts. Dr. Romitti also performs economic impact assessments on the effects from proposed policies; identifying supply chain opportunities for businesses including eastern Wisconsin, northwest Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Texas; and customized assessments of changing business conditions and workforce needs, and larger demographic and socioeconomic trends to further data-driven planning.  Additionally, Dr. Romitti conducts extensive research on high-growth companies, provides support to the network of CREC affiliated national membership organizations, and coordinates the development and implementation of training curriculum on regional economic methods and planning practices.

Before joining CREC, Dr. Romitti served as the Director of Economic and Public Policy Research at the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute, a unit of the UMass President’s Office, where he provided New England public, private, and non-profit leaders with analyses of trends, economic impacts, targeted industries, labor market issues, economic development efforts, and policy initiatives. Dr. Romitti was the Managing Editor of MassBenchmarks, an economic journal published by the university in cooperation with the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. He also headed the Massachusetts State Data Center.

Prior to his time at UMass, Dr. Romitti worked extensively in the legislative and executive branches of state government, including founding and directing the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center for 12 years. At MERIC, he led a 40-person organization providing research and producing studies on the Missouri economy. That research included economic condition reports, economic impact assessments, and Labor Market Information produced in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Labor. The center also performed business intelligence and marketing functions for the state’s economic development department as well as evaluated program and tax expenditure performance, assisted in determining areas of greatest distress and need for qualifying purposes, and supported the policymaking efforts of state agencies.

Dr. Romitti chaired the national Labor Market Information Training Institute from 2008 to 2012 and served on the Board of Directors for the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). He also served as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia College in Columbia, MO, teaching a master’s level course on Research Design in both the classroom and on-line settings.

Dr. Romitti holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Political Science with emphases on public policy analysis and political economy from the University of Missouri, a Master in Public Administration from the University of Idaho, and a bachelor’s degree in Government from Truman State University in Kirksville, MO.

Cathy Katona
Cathy Katona

Director, Economic Development Research and Technical Assistance Services
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1043
Email: ckatona@crec.net
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Cathy Katona joined CREC as Director of Economic Development Services to provide leadership in CREC economic development consulting and research activities. She has worked extensively with communities across the nation to evaluate economic and workforce development program success and to explore options for regional economic diversification. She oversees the monitoring of the work of grantees across 28 states and 15 regions that have received Defense Industry Adjustment funds through the Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA), for which she has traveled from California to Pennsylvania, to document planning, organizing, analyzing and implementing defense business diversification efforts.  She has provided further project management support to three OEA funded projects (in TX, CT and WV) to identify at risk businesses to better target direct support services. In CREC’s work with the Appalachian Regional Commission, she visited, and wrote corresponding case studies for, Chattanooga and Southeast West Virginia evaluating the elements that constitute successful entrepreneurial ecosystems to provide recommendations around supporting entrepreneurship as an economic diversification strategy in Appalachia.  In 2017, she led the content development for the annual C2ER Conference/Labor Market Information Institute recruiting keynote speakers and building out sessions on economic transformation, resiliency and incentives.


She previously served as the Senior Program Associate for the Aspen Institute’s Workforce Strategies Initiative (AspenWSI) Communities that Work Partnership, a Department of Commerce funded program designed to strengthen workforce and economic development working relationships to support sector-based talent development strategies. Prior to joining AspenWSI, Ms. Katona was a consultant who provided specialized technical assistance to organizations, institutions and governments to plan and implement strategies to transform programs and communities. In her consulting practice, Ms. Katona provided recommendations to regional and state economic development organizations to reshape operations, diversify and increase revenue streams, establish performance and improve communications, and more.

As a consultant she served as the first Executive Director of a community development corporation, hired to implement the aggressive start-up goals to revitalize an historic African-American neighborhood in Evanston, IL. During her tenure, she increased the operation budget by 400%, secured state and federal grants for business and workforce development programs and laid the groundwork to raise $350,000 from local banks to seed a microfinance loan fund.

She also served as the Vice President, Professional Development and Certification for the International Economic Development Council, where she worked closely with members by providing research, analysis and technical assistance support, as well as staff leadership for the professional development, certification and international committees. There she designed, launched and managed the professional development program that is the knowledge base for the economic development profession.  Over the first four years of her leadership, 2,500 practitioners participated in the program. Additionally, she institutionalized the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) certification program, recognized as the international certification for practitioners.

She holds a master’s degree from Michigan State University, where she was a National Science Foundation grant recipient, and a bachelor’s degree from Smith College. In addition, Ms. Katona is a professional photographer and world traveler.

John Marotta
John Marotta

Program Manager
Phone: 703.522.4980 x 1030
Email: jmarotta@crec.net
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John Marotta joined the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) team in September 2015, and currently serves as Senior Program Manager. Mr. Marotta coordinates relationship-building and knowledge-sharing efforts tied to the organization’s partnership with the Hollings National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), contributes to the maintenance of the State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database, serves as manager of the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) consortium, and supports the network of state research directors and analysts on behalf of priorities that align with the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).


Mr. Marotta is responsible for the day-to-day workflow of the International Engagement Ready Communities (IERC) Initiative, a cooperative effort to produce a rigorous, validated set of tools that can be used by regions across the United States to develop and execute a plan to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and foster export promotion. In support of CREC’s evaluation effort for the DoD Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) Defense Industry Adjustment program, Mr. Marotta participated in interviews, then wrote and updated project summaries for eight grantees, including Kentucky, Alabama, and Allen County, Ohio. To achieve the aims of the State Data Sharing Initiative, Mr. Marotta analyzed state statutes and regulations related to administrative data confidentiality, and delivered technical assistance to South Carolina and Utah. This technical assistance entailed development of an action plan, as well as site visits and ongoing communication to help accomplish the goals of the action plan.


As part of his work with NIST MEP, Mr. Marotta has coordinated among federal, nonprofit, and academic partners to organize two Roundtables on Manufacturing Research, craft a Call for Papers, and manage review process for a special journal issue highlighting effective economic and workforce development policies that foster manufacturing growth. Mr. Marotta also led an effort to evaluate the impacts of the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge (AMJIAC) grants. To achieve this, Mr. Marotta helped develop an interview protocol and conduct interviews with nearly 20 representatives from nine regions across the nation. From these primary interviews and additional research, Mr. Marotta developed a report that captured the primary activities and most significant outcomes of the AMJIAC initiative.


Mr. Marotta has facilitated development of Talent Attraction, Retention, and Preparation strategic action plans for the Momentum West and 7 Rivers Alliance regional economic development organizations, which serve areas in Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota. These projects included conducting interviews with individual stakeholders from the regions—representing a cross section of industries, economic development, workforce development, post-secondary education, K-12 education, and others—and guiding steering committees through an iterative, consensus-based process to identify challenges, and collective strategies for addressing them.

Before joining CREC, Mr. Marotta worked for the state workforce agency in the District of Columbia as a Special Assistant to the Deputy Director for Workforce Development. As a researcher and senior-leadership advisor, he managed a portfolio of projects and helped ensure continuous improvement in agency division operations. In this role, Mr. Marotta tracked and managed the resolution of 47 federal corrective action items across Workforce Development and Unemployment Insurance programs, and managed projects and crafted several Annual Reports for the District’s Workforce Information Grant to States from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). Additionally, Mr. Marotta gathered performance information from managers and edited written submissions to develop and submit annual Agency Performance Plan and Performance Accountability Report, wrote a successful proposal for the USDOL Paid Family Leave Analysis grant and served as Project Manager for implementation of the grant. Mr. Marotta co-authored “A Summary of Major Elements of Section 308, Title III, Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)” for the National Association of State Workforce Agencies Labor Market Information Committee.

Mr. Marotta holds a Master in Public Policy degree with a concentration in environmental and energy policy from Georgetown University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics degree from Hofstra University.

Jennie Allison
Jennie Allison

Program Manager
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1021
Email: jallison@crec.net
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Jennie Allison serves as Program Manager for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC). With the organization since September 2014, she works with the membership association the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), manages the Cost of Living Index (COLI), co-directs the organization’s training program, and provides research and technical support.

As COLI project manager, Ms. Allison coordinates the collection of and compiles all the data provided from volunteers in nearly 400 communities from metro and micropolitan areas throughout the United States, manages subscriber correspondence, and methodically works to enhance both the quality of the data gathered and the form which it is presented to the end user. Under her supervision, the final survey response rate has exceeded 70 percent in each of the past nine quarters. Ms. Allison assists with new product development and enhancement, and overall marketing efforts. In her role as COLI manager, she responds to media inquiries or any other outside requests related to the Index.

Additionally, Ms. Allison provides management support for C2ER, including board and membership association activities, as well as co-directing the training program. She manages the CREC organization-wide webinar program and organizes the C2ER/LMI Institute monthly webinar series.

Before joining the CREC team, Ms. Allison worked for an economic development district agency in southeast Georgia providing technical economic development assistance. In this role she helped the 13 member counties promote regional economic development through various economic and workforce development projects.

Ms. Allison holds a Master of Science degree in Environmental and Applied Economics and a Bachelor of Science degree in Environmental Economics and Management from the University of Georgia.

Lindsay Johnson
Lindsay Johnson

Program Manager
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1028
Email: ljohnson@crec.net
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Lindsay Johnson serves as a Program Manager at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), where she oversees various economic and workforce development projects and trainings across the CREC portfolio. She is the point of contact for the training committees and annual courses delivered by the LMI Institute and Projections Managing Partnership (PMP).


Ms. Johnson currently manages program evaluation for Talent Pipeline Management (TPM), a U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation effort to help economic development and business support organizations advance metrics-based workforce strategies in their regions. As part of this effort, she engages participants in the TPM Academy and helped design a logic model and survey to continuously monitor participant advancement in the program. Ms. Johnson also manages, writes case studies, and supports web design for Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia, an Appalachian Regional Commission initiative to gauge entrepreneurial activities and support services across Appalachia. Furthermore, she coordinates a team of researchers to determine a count of credentials for Credential Engine, which is dedicated to promoting transparency and literacy around postsecondary credential programs. She also oversees programming for the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) Annual Conference & LMI Institute Annual Forum, as well as annual trainings such as the Basic LMI Analyst and Applied Analyst courses.


In addition, Ms. Johnson has supported the State Data Sharing Initiative, a foundation-supported project to help state policymakers and researchers access administrative data for more effective economic and workforce development policymaking and program evaluation. She also worked with the Multi-State Advanced Manufacturing Consortium to develop and deliver trainings at Bridge Valley Community and Technical College, Henry Ford Community College, and Spartanburg Community College, helping college staff use LMI to engage industry partners in curriculum development. She has also delivered LMI trainings for the Arizona Commerce Authority, National Association of Workforce Boards, and National Association of Workforce Development Professionals.


Prior to joining CREC, Ms. Johnson spent three years working in recruiting and human resources at Employee Relations Associates, a staffing and career-transition firm based in Rochester, NY. With a specialization in mortgage industry staffing, she supported operations for the company’s largest account and provided technical training to a nationwide infrastructure of staffing partners.


Ms. Johnson holds a Master in Regional Planning degree with a concentration in Community and Economic Development from Cornell University and Bachelor of Arts degree in International Studies and Spanish from Allegheny College.

Randall Arthur
Randall Arthur

Research Manager
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1013
Email: rarthur@crec.net
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As Research Manager, Randall leads CREC’s data analytic solutions for commercial and public-sector clients. He manages fulfillment of client needs and issues by developing research processes, coaching junior staff, and building quality controls to ensure accuracy within the data discovery process.


Mr. Arthur supervises maintenance of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) State Business Incentive and State Economic Development Program Expenditure Databases. Both databases are leading resources for research into economic and workforce development and tax policy. Additionally, Randall supervises CREC’s geospatial services, whereby he uses Esri ArcGIS to provide address mapping capabilities for supply chain, industry cluster, and community development projects.


Currently, Randall manages and supports several aspects of CREC’s work with the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DoD) Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) and Defense Impact Adjustment (DIA) programs. His work entails evaluating the impact of defense spending on manufacturing supply-chains in rural and urban communities and the effectiveness of local economic development organizations to respond adequately.


Additionally, Mr. Arthur supports CREC’s work with Credential Engine, which seeks to form the nation’s first cross-platform credential database. Once complete, the product will illustrate for the first time the U.S. marketplace for professional designations in postsecondary, vocational, and technical and continuing education.


Before coming to CREC, Mr. Arthur worked as a Research Assistant for both the Ralph M. Voorhees Center for Civic Engagement and Alan M. Voorhees Center for Transportation at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, where he evaluated the effectiveness of New Jersey’s tax policies using GIS mapped land parcels targeted for commercial development in Elizabeth, New Jersey; and performed a case study into the improvement of the City of Newark, New Jersey’s waste management policies.


Mr. Arthur received a Master of City and Regional Planning degree, with a concentration in Community and Economic Development, from Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Ermias Gyesus
Ermias Gyesus

Finance Manager
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1040
Email: egyesus@crec.net
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Ermias Gyesus serves as the Finance Manager for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), LMI Institute, and Association of Public Data Users (APDU). Mr. Gyesus is responsible for managing the financial operation of all four organizations and assisting senior managers and CEO in making accurate decisions.

His responsibilities include:

  • Performing Accounts Payable ensuring that all invoices are processed and paid on time.
  • Invoicing for products and services and managing Accounts Receivable.
  • Processing semi-monthly payroll.
  • Uploading employees’ timesheet and allocating hours to projects in the QuickBooks Accounting System.
  • Reconciling monthly bank statements for all four organizations.
  • Preparing budget for proposed projects and association clients in collaboration with senior management.
  • Preparing and analyzing monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports.
  • Allocating Direct, Fringe and Overhead costs to all projects for accurate financial reporting and decision making.
  • Performing month-end and year-ending closing, including adjusting entries for pre-paid and deferrals.
  • Implementing and enforcing sound accounting fiscal policies, procedures, and control.

Before joining CREC, Mr. Gyesus worked as a Project/ Payroll Accountant at Pacific Architects and Engineers Government Services, Inc. Mr. Gyesus also worked for FedEx as a Project Manager and General Accountant at different positions for 13 years.

Mr. Gyesus received a Bachelor in Accounting degree from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia and a Bachelor in Business Administration degree from Georgia Gwinnett College. He is fluent in Amharic.

William Cook
William Cook

Research Analyst/Web Developer
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1019
Email: wcook@crec.net
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William Cook serves as a Research Assistant for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) and the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).  Mr. Cook provides research analysis and web development for projects, and assists with information technology and data management support throughout the firm.  Key projects include:

  • Ongoing development and maintenance of web sites for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC); the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER); the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute; and the Association for Public Data Users (APDU)
  • The “Economic Diversity in Appalachia” web site for the Appalachian Regional Commission, providing interactive access to county level demographic and economic diversity data
  • The “Appalachia Then and Now” web site for the Appalachian Regional Commission, documenting 50 years of economic changes in Appalachia
  • The “Entrepreneurial Ecosystems in Appalachia” web site for the Appalachian Regional Commission, with information on economic dynamism and the various organizations across Appalachia supporting entrepreneurship
  • The State Data Sharing Initiative (SDS) web site, providing guidance on the legal and regulatory landscape governing access to administrative records data
  • A Community College Dashboard for the Multi-State Advanced Manufacturing Consortium (M-SAMC) for member colleges, showing local market information, information on related educational programs, and links to other relevant data sources
  • An analysis of the National Labor Exchange (NLx) database of job postings, assessing the quality of the data and whether the NLx tool can be used to better understand and anticipate labor market trends
  • Cost of Living Index data review and index calculation

Before joining CREC, Mr. Cook served as a Census enumerator and a survey researcher for George Mason University.  He also assisted in contract management and purchasing at Nortel, Lockheed Martin, and Edgemoore Homes, and served as a customer service representative at VeriSign Global Registry Services.

Mr. Cook earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from George Mason University, after garnering an associate’s degree from Northern Virginia Community College.

Spencer Abrams
Spencer Abrams

Manager of Operations, Events, & Communications
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1027
Email: sabrams@crec.net
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Spencer Abrams has served as Manager of Operations, Events, & Communications for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) and the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) since 2010. His duties include financial management support, event coordination, communication management, and administrative support.

Mr. Abrams is responsible for the logistical coordination and execution of the annual conferences for both C2ER (250+ attendees) and APDU (Association of Public Data Users) (200+ attendees). He also manages the logistics and execution of 8-12 in-person trainings per year (~25+ attendees). Mr. Abrams is also responsible for C2ER’s communication programs.  This includes design, editing, and distribution of weekly email updates as well as maintaining the Twitter and Facebook social media accounts. In addition, Mr. Abrams supervises the invoicing of subscribers and members as well as maintenance of the membership database. Mr. Abrams is an integral part of C2ER’s new marketing team, helping design and implement marketing strategy for events, as well as subscription and membership programs.

Prior to joining CREC, Mr. Abrams worked for 17 years in business and operational management.  He has significant experience in business operations, budgeting, personnel and multi-unit management, and training.

Mr. Abrams received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication from Towson University.

Brendan Buff
Brendan Buff

Program Associate
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1020
Email: bbuff@crec.net
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Mr. Buff serves as a Program Associate at the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), performing association management and economic development research duties. He manages the operations of the Association of Public Data Users (APDU), and several committees for the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). Using CREC’s approach to analysis, he creates a data-driven appreciation for regional economies; and he facilitates meetings between economic developers and researchers so that they can better gather and analyze data.

During his time managing APDU, Mr. Buff has provided customer service to members, planning for the annual conference, organizing webinars, and writing a weekly newsletter. Mr. Buff also led the development of the APDU’s first training course, Data Viz Made Simple.

Recently, Mr. Buff contributed to the evaluation of the Appalachian Regional Commission to commemorate their 50th anniversary, titled Appalachia Then and Now: Examining Changes to the Appalachian Region since 1965. This work involved conducting focus groups with local organizations to identify qualitative impacts of ARC investments. He has conducted site visits and written case studies on ARC programs in Ohio, Alabama, and Maryland. In addition, he has performed a literature review on resources for entrepreneurs and innovators for the Appalachian Regional Commission.

Mr. Buff’s work with the Department of Defense, Office of Economic Adjustment includes producing communications materials to grantees and managing the DIAHub, an online resource for Defense Industry Adjustment program grantees to share materials and network; organizing an annual convening of over 150 attendees; developing webinars for learning communities on a variety of topics; and conducting site visits to create program blueprints.

He also helps manage and update over 20 states for the C2ER State Business Incentives and the State Economic Development Expenditures databases. The Incentives database features information on state tax and program incentives categorized according to program category, program type, geographic focus, and business need. The Expenditures Database assesses total resources available for economic development activity across more than 15 functional areas and multiple funding sources using consistent funding categorizations.

In past projects, Mr. Buff assisted in the production of profiles of state lending programs for the State Small Business Credit Initiative. In addition, he assisted in the production of a working group report on state Capital Access Programs and a report on state program efforts on lending to underserved populations. Prior to joining the CREC team, Mr. Buff worked as an intern for a Member of Parliament in London, England, researched best practices in nonprofit capacity building for Dare Mighty Things, and wrote legislative advocacy materials on issues including asset limits, manufactured housing, and tax incentives for the Corporation for Enterprise Development.

Mr. Buff received a Master of Public Administration degree from the George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Michigan State University.

Joe Jaroscak
Joe Jaroscak

Research Analyst
Phone: 703-522-4980 x 1042
Email: jjaroscak@crec.net
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Joe Jaroscak is a Research Analyst with the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC). In this role, he supports the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute and the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP), a consortium of state labor market information offices. Mr. Jaroscak also provides analysis and technical assistance on several of CREC’s workforce and economic development projects.

In his role as research analyst, Mr. Jaroscak supports the PMP’s strategic communication efforts by managing the PMP Communications & Marketing committee and coordinating day-to-day operations of the PMP Board. Additionally, he provides research support for the International Engagement Ready Communities (IERC) Initiative, a cooperative effort to produce a rigorous, validated set of tools that can be used by regions across the United States to develop and execute a plan to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and foster export promotion. Mr. Jaroscak also leads research and technical assistance efforts for the State Data Sharing Initiative (SDS), a multi-year program to support inter-agency administrative data sharing for economic and workforce development program evaluation and policy development.

Mr. Jaroscak has supported the facilitation and data analysis for talent attraction, retention, and preparation strategic action plans for multi-county regions in West Central and Southwest Wisconsin. He has also developed processes for the organization and analysis of large data sets to better understand Aerospace and Defense value-chains and supply-chains.

Mr. Jaroscak brings experience in housing and community development issues, analytical research, and technical writing. Prior to joining CREC, Mr. Jaroscak worked as a Research Analyst for Sage Computing, where he conducted research and wrote content about issues related to federal, state and local housing and community development policies. He has also worked for Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, CDC Association of Greater Cincinnati, City Year, and the Division of Neighborhood Planning within the Washington, DC Office of Planning.

Mr. Jaroscak holds a Master of Community Planning degree from the University of Cincinnati and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Spanish from Butler University.

Jaleel Reed
Jaleel Reed

Research Analyst
Phone: 703-522-4980 x2002
Email: jreed@crec.net
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Jaleel Reed is currently a Research Analyst with the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC), assisting with various products and projects across the organization’s portfolio. Specifically, Mr. Reed has played an integral role in the mapping and analyzing of aerospace and defense supply/value chains for Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) grantees. Mr. Reed also contributed data analysis and project design assistance for a project with the California Community Colleges System, which analyzed and communicated the implications of 2015 Current Population Survey (CPS) data on certifications licenses for California’s workforce.

In support of CREC’s evaluation effort for the DoD Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) Defense Industry Adjustment program, Mr. Reed participated in interviews, then wrote and updated project summaries for three grantees, including Kern County, Long Beach County, California.

To achieve the aims of the State Data Sharing Initiative, Mr. Reed delivered technical assistant to Minnesota and Iowa. This technical assistance entailed development of an action plan, as well as site visits and ongoing communication to help accomplish the goals of the action plan.

Further, Mr. Reed has provided general assistance across various other economic and workforce development projects, including an analysis of state-level manufacturing indicators for the Hollings National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST-MEP).

Mr. Reed’s responsibilities at CREC include providing program management support to the Board of Directors for the Projections Managing Partnership, a U.S. Employment and Training Administration-funded consortium of state employment projections programs. In this capacity, Mr. Reed coordinates the efforts of state subject matter experts to design products to meet the needs of different customer groups, including policy makers, workforce and economic development practitioners, businesses, job seekers, students, and counselors.

Mr. Reed also updates the State Business Incentives Database; and analyzes data for the Cost of Living Index (COLI) and assists with the product’s development and marketing efforts.

Mr. Reed joined CREC as an intern before moving into his full-time role. Prior to joining the organization, Mr. Reed served as a Metro and Community Planning Intern for the City of Eugene, Oregon Planning Division where he collaborated with planning staff and community stakeholders toward developing an area plan for unincorporated communities of Santa Clara and River Road. Mr. Reed has also served as a Community Development Intern with Boston Private Bank in Los Angeles, where he assisted the Community Development team in meeting Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligations.

Mr. Reed holds Master in Community and Regional Planning and Master in Environmental Studies degrees from the University of Oregon and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Environmental Science from Northwestern University.

Charlie Braunlich
Charlie Braunlich

Research Assistant
Phone: 703.522.4980 ext. 1029
Email: cbraunlich@crec.net
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Charles Braunlich joined the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) team in October 2015, and currently serves as a Research Assistant. Mr. Braunlich manages the initial data review and analyses for the quarterly Cost of Living Index publication, serves as the assistant manager of the State Business Incentives Database, contributes to the maintenance of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database, facilitates the monthly C2ER and LMI Institute webinar series, and provides support for various consulting projects through data analytics and report writing.


Mr. Braunlich is currently responsible for the day-to-day management of the DIAHUB website, an online resource and communication platform for the grantees of the federal Defense Industry Adjustment program facilitated through the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA). In support of CREC’s evaluation effort for the OEA’s Defense Industry Adjustment program, Mr. Braunlich participated in interviews, then wrote and updated project summaries for grantees including San Diego, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Texarkana, and the New England region, among others. As part of his work with the Hollings National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST-MEP), Mr. Braunlich has provided research and policy analysis assistance for several projects, including an analysis of state-level manufacturing indicators.


In the past, Mr. Braunlich has contributed to the creation of a diversification plan for Somerset County, PA by means of collecting and interpreting demographic, workforce, and industry data in the region. Additionally, Mr. Braunlich provided extensive research and data visualization to facilitate the expansion and development of the National Youth Employment Talent Pipeline initiative led by the U. S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.


Before joining CREC, Mr. Braunlich worked for Jackson National, an insurance agency in Lansing, Michigan, where he processed and reviewed large, confidential datasets.


Mr. Braunlich obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in Economics from Michigan State University.

Mereb Hagos
Mereb Hagos

Research Assistant
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1022
Email: mhagos@crec.net
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Mereb Hagos joined the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) team in April 2017, and currently serves as a Research Assistant. Ms. Hagos leads CREC’s efforts to maintain the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database, contributes to the maintenance of the C2ER State Business Incentives Database, analyzes data for the Cost of Living Index (COLI), and assists with the product development and marketing efforts.

Ms. Hagos is responsible for the day-to-day workflow of the State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database, a compilation of 13,000 records of executive budget data on all 50 states’ investments in economic development using a consistent categorization of expenses across states. In support of CREC’s evaluation effort for the DoD Office of Economic Adjustment (OEA) Defense Industry Adjustment program, Ms. Hagos participated in interviews, then wrote and updated project summaries for four grantees, including Colorado, Alabama, and Dayton, Ohio. Additionally, she provides research assistance to the International Engagement Ready Communities (IERC) Initiative, a cooperative effort to produce a rigorous, validated set of tools that can be used by regions across the United States to develop and execute a plan to attract foreign direct investment (FDI) and foster export promotion. Ms. Hagos plays a significant role in the COLI data review and product development. She assists with the review of COLI data, compiling and analyzing data for the County Level Index, and provides research support for the collection of cell phone tax data.

In addition to research, Ms. Hagos’ responsibilities at CREC include providing management support C2ER, including board and membership association activities and facilitating webinars.

Ms. Hagos initially joined CREC as an intern prior to moving into a full-time role. Previously, she worked as an Administrative Assistant at the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, where she gained experience in grant writing and research, community development, and knowledge of non-profit principles and practices.

Ms. Hagos holds a Master of Public Policy degree with a concentration in Regional Economic Development from George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Central Florida.

Amanda Holmes
Amanda Holmes

Marketing Assistant
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1039
Email: aholmes@crec.net
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Amanda Lynn Holmes serves as Marketing Assistant for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC).  Ms. Holmes updates and maintains the membership and marketing database, assists the communications team in managing event marketing and communications, and handles membership invoicing for the organization.

Prior to joining CREC, Ms. Holmes worked as a human resources coordinator for a non-profit federally qualified health center in Washington, DC.  Additionally, she has worked as a field organizer on numerous campaigns.

Ms. Holmes earned a certificate in Human Resources Management from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology with a concentration in Structure and Inequality from Randolph-Macon College.

Ron Coan
Ron Coan

Senior Fellow
Editor, The Journal of Applied Research in Economic Development

Email: edcurmudgeon@gmail.com
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Ron is the Editor for the Journal of Applied Research in Economic Development and an adjunct Research Fellow for the Center of Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC). Ron earned a Ph.D. from Miami University of Ohio in Political Science and Public Administration and has taught at Truman College and as a tenured faculty member at Canisius College. At both institutions, he was Program Chair for Urban Studies/Public Administration. Since retiring in 2005, Mr. Coan spent a year teaching with the graduate faculty at Marist College in New York City, and he currently is an adjunct in the Anne Arundel Community College Washington, D.C. metro area.

As an economic development professional, Ron was an Assistant City Manager (part-time) in Kirksville Missouri, a neighborhood and housing activist during the early 1980s, a member of a team which elected the first ever (and only) Democratic County Executive in Erie County, N.Y.; an Economic Development Coordinator and First Deputy Commissioner for the Erie County Department of Environment & Planning, CEO of the Erie County Industrial Development Agency Group (six separate corporations), County Executive’s CETA/WIA Coordinator, Vice Chair and Acting Chair of the 1993 World University Games, decade long member of Erie County MEP Board of Directors, and finished his career (quite literally) as CEO of the Dutchess County Economic Development Corporation (which also included an Tourist Promotion Agency, an Economic Development Zone, and Industry Councils (including a Semi-conductor Tech Council led by IBM). During this time Ron served on the Board and a Chair of the New York State Economic Development Council and served for a decade on the Boards of the Council of Urban Economic Development/International Economic Development Council. Ron has successfully achieved CEcD certification and served for five years on its Certification Committee; he has participated in numerous special CUED/IEDC community task forces, the latest in 2008 being New Orleans.

Professionally, Ron has extensive experience in Industrial Revenue Bonds (issuance in excess of $5 billion), PILOT agreements, RLF loans (over 1100 loans), a micro loan fund, established a venture capital investment corporation (whose track record today includes two publically traded corporations), managed nearly 2 million square foot of real estate, eminent domain, brownfields projects, professional hockey, Triple A Baseball and University of Buffalo football stadium construction management/and ownership (Hockey & Baseball),foreign trade zone, creation of a 500 acre industrial park, associated with the Export Import Bank (from which several hundred million dollars of export insurance and loans were achieved), founder of an 100,000 sq ft Advanced Training Center, operator of two short line railroads, a proud manager of sewer lines, an incubator, and several trade missions (including a reverse trade mission). Internationally Ron has been the recipient of a MITI grant for economic development study/travel in Japan, member of a four member World Bank/Inter American Development Bank team to Colombia (leading to establishing the first secondary market in that nation) and as Vice Chair and Acting Chair of the 1993 World University Games (127 nations over 7000 athletes/coaches) Ron accumulated a great deal of foreign travel/experience over a seven year period.

Ron is currently partly retired, and apparently somewhat restless, working on the definitive book on local economic development (with C2ER support and involvement), and a consultant/workshop presenter for the American Planning Association as well as his Editorship of the Journal.