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 over 30 years. Dr. Poole co-founded CREC in January 2000 as an independent non-profit focused on assisting policy-makers used 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. Treasury Department, U.S. Economic Development Administration, 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, Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation), regional economic and workforce development organizations (e.g., 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 Planning, City of El Paso Planning and Economic Development, Knox County Metropolitan Planning Organization), and many others.  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, and the Association of Public Data Users, 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 resources 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 and on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Data Users Advisory Council. Dr. Poole travels and speaks frequently to national audiences of policy-leaders and economic development professions on the challenges of data-driven regional economic planning and development.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • George Mason University, Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration, Regional Development Policy
  • American University, Master’s in Public Administration
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bachelor’s of Arts, Political Science and Psychology
  • 2016 Innovation in Local Employment Dynamics Award, US Census Bureau
Sean McNamara
Sean McNamara

Administrative Director
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1010
Email: sam@crec.net
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Mr. McNamara manages all operations for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) and the associations it manages:

Under his oversight, Mr. McNamara maintains all four of the organizations’ financials, directly guides marketing and communication efforts, leads logistical coordination and operations, directs human resources management efforts, and maintains Board of Director relations.

Core to his role, Mr. McNamara builds and maintains strategic relationships with partners and clients in order to further CREC’s mission while organizing and building support for the C2ER Conference and LMI Forum, which annually host nearly 300 attendees in various cities nationwide.

Prior to his executive duties at CREC, Mr. McNamara’s career focused on local, state, and federal economic development evaluation management. In this capacity, he analyzed enterprise zone design effectiveness for community-development initiatives.

He also served as CEO of McNamara Associates, a management consulting organization. In this role, he provided research, facilitation, project coordination, and management assistance to clients including:

  • The American Association of Enterprise Zones (AAEZ)
  • The National Association of State Development Agencies (NASDA)
  • The National Council of Urban Economic Development (CUED, now IEDC)

Under his leadership, McNamara Associates produced a national database of state economic development incentives and published case studies outlining the success of state enterprise and federal empowerment zones. The organization also choreographed the 1996 AAEZ Annual Conference with keynote speaker and then-Vice President Al Gore.

Mr. McNamara has more than 15 years experience in residential and commercial design. He served as Senior Project Manager for Ryland Homes, a national home construction firm. There, he managed its home accessories design stores and held a number of positions with commercial home design and home furnishings firms.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • Rhode Island School of Design, Master’s of Fine Arts
  • Rhode Island School of Design, Bachelor’s of Arts, Fine Arts


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 also oversees the Center’s web and database infrastructure. Before taking over 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 of the 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, staffing C2ER’s Cost of Living Index Technical Advisory Board.

As Chief Economist, Mr. Yildirim designed and created an Integrated Manufacturers Database, involving 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 the 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.  Also, 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; a Visual Basic Application that would allow the Department of Commerce to project state and county population levels moving forward.

Mr. Yildirim has used his technical skills and certifications to design online surveys customized to individual client needs, from input options to producing relevant statistical result summaries, teach Advanced Excel and Relational Database classes for preparing and analyzing socioeconomic data, to develop e-commerce sites for both C2ER and COLI, and to create 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 COLI Library Application – a tool allowing all C2ER data products to be accessible via IP authentications, Historical Cost of Living Index (COLI), Cost of Living Index Web Calculator – a main revenue generator for C2ER.  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, Oracle PL/SQL, SPSS, and ASP.

Erol Yildirim holds a Master’s degree in Economics 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.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • George Mason University, Master’s of Science, Economics
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University, Master’s of Science, Financial Economics
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, a non-profit organization that provides policy-makers with information and technical assistance to formulate and execute regional economic development strategies. Mr. Troppe manages CREC’s workforce programs and provides facilitation consulting support to federal agencies and state/local economic development organizations.

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 joined CREC with 15 years of experience working at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program. Most recently he led a division that oversaw program development and MEP’s partnerships with other Federal agencies, Governors, and industry associations. The Partnerships and Program Development team was responsible for working 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, connect manufacturers with potential suppliers, advance economic adjustment initiatives through services to companies in key supply chains, address workforce issues, and support manufacturing clusters. During his tenure, Mr. Troppe worked closely with the MEP Advisory Board to design and execute strategies for accelerating SMEs’ use of new technologies. While at NIST, Mr. Troppe had one-year temporary assignments in the Office of 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).

Mr. Troppe’s leadership on economic adjustment programs is especially noteworthy. He worked with DOD’s Office of Economic Adjustment to design MEP’s involvement in Defense Industry Adjustment activities. He also educated MEP Centers about the opportunity and provided guidance on program design. Mr. Troppe met with numerous MEP executives to track progress and refine strategies. The collaboration led to MEP Centers generating substantial impacts (jobs, cost savings, sales) with companies in the defense supply chain. This effort served as a model for the POWER initiative that aided coal plants, suppliers, and coal communities.

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 Mark 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 organization 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 an MA in Development Economics from the University of Essex, an MPA focused on labor, employment, and education policy from the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, and a BA 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 where he manages key research projects focused on evaluating the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership, making assessments of state incentive and expenditure programs, and conducting economic impact studies of federal, state and regional programs, assets and investments.  He also conducts extensive research on high-growth companies, provides support to planning initiatives, and coordinates the development and implementation of training curriculum on regional economic methods. Dr. Romitti is recognized for his leadership on complex research projects and for innovative research design.  He has led dozens of studies and earned multiple national awards for research excellence.

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.


  • University of Missouri, Ph.D. in Political Science with emphases on public policy analysis and political economy
  • University of Idaho, Masters in Public Administration
  • Truman State University, Bachelor’s degree in Government
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 to provide leadership in CREC economic development consulting and research activities.  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.  She has over 15 years of experience in community and economic development working to accelerate growth and change in underserved communities.  She has worked closely with local and regional leaders from a range of institutions including community-based organizations, business leaders, government officials and foundations, designing and implementing strategies to bring together these diverse constituencies.

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 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 and 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 as Program Manager. Mr. Marotta coordinates job-retention and cost-savings efforts tied to the organization’s partnership with the Hollings National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, contributes to the management and maintenance of the State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database, serves as manager of the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP) consortium, provides research support for CREC in-person trainings and webinars, and helps advocate on behalf of priorities that align with the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).

As part of his work with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Mr. Marotta 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. In support of the Momentum West economic development organization, Mr. Marotta is managing an effort to develop a Talent Attraction and Retention strategic plan for the West Central Wisconsin region. Mr. Marotta is supporting senior project staff in conducting interviews with nearly 70 individual stakeholders from the ten county region, representing a cross section of industries, economic development, workforce development, post-secondary education, K-12 education, and others. Mr. Marotta is also working to synthesize the information gathered in these interviews in order to identify themes, shared challenges, and potential strategies for addressing identified issues. In addition, Mr. Marotta is working with the project team to collect and analyze relevant economic data, as well as design a metric-based dashboard to be used by Momentum West and other regional stakeholders to track their progress in attaining regional goals.

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, managed projects and crafted several Annual Reports for the District’s Workforce Information Grant to States from the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), 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, and 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.

Prior to his work with the District of Columbia, Mr. Marotta was a Research Assistant at Georgetown University. There, he administered a survey to state-level policymakers that measured the relationship between environmental regulation and economic development. Mr. Marotta has interned with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, where he examined and resolved data inconsistencies in order to make recommendations for improving data analysis.

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

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • Georgetown University, Master’s in Public Policy, concentration in environmental and energy policy
  • Hofstra University, Bachelor of Arts, Economics
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) and the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). In this capacity, she manages the Cost of Living Index (COLI) production and daily operations, as well as providing organization and administrative support to the C2ER Board and training program.

As COLI project manager, Ms. Allison coordinates and compiles the data provided from volunteers in nearly 400 communities from urban 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 six quarters. Ms. Allison assists with the new product development and enhancement and overall marketing efforts. In her role as project 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 assisting with 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 a regional development 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’s of Science in Environmental and Applied Economics and a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Economics and Management, both from the University of Georgia.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • University of Georgia: Environmental Economics with a concentration in economic development 
Lindsay Johnson
Lindsay Johnson

Program Manager
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1028
Email: ljohnson@crec.net
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Lindsay Johnson assists with association management, training, and economic and workforce development projects across the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC) portfolio. Specifically, she provides programming assistance for the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), the Labor Market Information (LMI) Institute, and the Projections Managing Partnership (PMP).

In her role as a Program Manager, Ms. Johnson has supported research activities for a wide array of projects. Research topics have included data confidentiality pertaining to state unemployment insurance and corporate tax laws, regional industry and occupational growth opportunities, and youth employment analyses. Additionally, she helps manage C2ER/LMI Institute annual and customized trainings and has developed and delivered numerous LMI training courses geared toward community college, economic development, and workforce development professionals. She also coordinates association membership services and administers board and committee activities.

Prior to joining CREC, Ms. Johnson spent three years in a recruiting and human resources capacity 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.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • Cornell University, Master of Regional Planning with a concentration in Economic Development
  • Allegheny College, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and Spanish
Randall Arthur
Randall Arthur

Research Manager
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1013
Email: rarthur@crec.net
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As an Research Manager, Randall leads CREC’s efforts around the State Economic Development Program Expenditures Database. This project is a compilation of 11,000 records of executive budget data on all 50 states’ investments in economic development using a consistent categorization of expenses across states. Mr. Arthur also provides support to consulting projects through data and policy analysis, Geographic Information Software (GIS) mapmaking and reports.

Mr. Arthur has conducted economic and labor market research for a number of CREC clients.  His analysis of the fastest growing industries and occupations related to healthcare, STEM, banking and personal finance, and identifying the skills employers within these industries demand, helped The South New Hampshire University’s College for America program plan its future program offerings.

Similarly, Mr. Arthur recently provided economic and labor market research to the William Keith Kellogg Foundation describing the economic conditions and demographic trends impacting impoverished communities in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In doing so, Mr. Arthur illustrated the challenges of unemployment; the outcomes of various levels of educational attainment; and age and gender breakdowns across major industries, highlighting favorable and unfavorable trends.

In addition to research, Mr. Arthur’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. Arthur 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.

Before coming to CREC, Mr. Arthur worked as a Research Assistant to Dr. Henry Coleman at Rutgers University where he examined public budgeting systems, public finance, and tax policies.  Prior to working with Dr. Coleman, Mr. Arthur served as an Assistant Planner interning with Together North Jersey, a planning initiative in the 13-county North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority region where he built a website for the City of Elizabeth, New Jersey, which incorporated GIS mapping tools to help potential investors, developers, and other groups identify development sites which qualify for various federal and state financial incentives.  Mr. Arthur also served as a Comprehensive Planning Intern for the City of East Orange, New Jersey, where he updated the city’s commercial zoning ordinance. Concurrently, Mr. Arthur co-designed a database cataloging more than 50 years of land-use development throughout the city.

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


  • Rutgers University’s Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Master’s Degree, City and Regional Planning with a concentration in Community and Economic Development
  • Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science
Ermias Gyesus
Ermias Gyesus

Finance Manager
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1040
Email: egyesus@crec.net
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Ermias Gyesus serves as the Staff Accountant 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 the processing and recording for A/P transactions and ensure that all invoices and staff reimbursements are paid accurately and in accordance with Finance policies and procedures.
  • Managing the processing of deposits, recording of revenue and receivables
  • Preparing and analyzing the monthly budget/forecast to actual variance reports per program or project
  • Reviewing and processing AMEX Expense reports and receipts submitted by cardholders on a monthly basis.
  • Performing the processing of project cost, operational and benefit expense allocations, monthly accruals, amortization of prepaid expenses, fixed assets depreciation and recording of adjusting and reclassification journal entries.
  • Processing payroll, HSA and employees’ retirement plan semi-monthly.
  • Analyzing and allocating employees’ time to projects in the QuickBooks Accounting System for the purpose of cost analysis as Direct and Indirect Cost.
  • Performing general accounts reconciliations, including bank and credit card statements, fixed assets, payroll report, deferrals, accruals, and prepaid expenses.
  • Preparing and analyzing monthly, quarterly and annual financial reports.
  • Performing month-ending and year- ending closing, including adjusting entries for prepaid expenses, deferrals, and accrued payroll.
  • Managing and record keeping of employees’ vacation and personal time for the purpose of personnel management and identifying accrued liabilities.
  • Preparing year end 1099s and overseeing filling of 1096 with IRS
  • Assisting with annual audit.
  • Implementing and enforcing sound accounting fiscal policies, procedures, and control.
  • Performing additional tasks as requested by the CEO and COO.

Before joining CREC of August 1st 2013, 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 his BA in Accounting from Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia and also a BA in Business Administration from Georgia Gwinnett College. He is fluent in Amharic.


  • Georgia Gwinnett College, Bachelor’s Degree, Business Administration
  • Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia, Bachelor’s Degree, Accounting
William Cook
William Cook

Research Analyst/Web Developer
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1019
Email: wcook@crec.net
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William Cook provides research support for several ongoing projects, assists with information technology and data management support throughout the firm, assists with the C2ER Cost of Living Index data review and index calculation, and maintains all of CREC’s affiliated Web sites. In 2010, Mr. Cook assisted with the development and deployment of the CREC-led survey of over 10,000 Arizona businesses.

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.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • George Mason University, Bachelor’s of Science, Sociology
  • Northern Virginia Community College, Associate’s Degree
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 manages the invoicing of subscribers and members as well as maintaining 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.

Mr. Abrams brought to CREC and C2ER a 17 year background in business and operational management.  He has significant experience in business operations, budgeting, personnel and multi-unit management, and training.

Mr. Abrams received his Bachelor’s of Science in Mass Communication from Towson University.

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • Towson University, Bachelor’s of Science, Mass Communications
Brendan Buff
Brendan Buff

Program Associate
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1020
Email: bbuff@crec.net
Bio Show Details

Mr. Buff manages the operations of the Association of Public Data Users, guiding the planning of the annual conference, developing webinars, and producing a weekly newsletter. 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.

He also helps manage and update over 20 states for the State Business Incentives Database and the State Economic Development Expenditures Database for the Council for Community and Economic Research, a network managed by the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness. 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.

Recently, Mr. Buff assisted in the production of profiles of state lending programs for the State Small Business Credit Initiative. In this project he organized interviews with state program managers to chronicle lending program characteristics and used reported data to demonstrate program outcomes including leverage ratios, jobs created and retained, and other data points. 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. He also 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.

In past projects, Mr. Buff developed value chain analyses for regional industries for Centralina Council of Governments (including the ball and roller bearing manufacturing, motor and generator manufacturing, other aircraft parts and auxiliary equipment manufacturing, and primary battery manufacturing industries) and other regional economic development organizations using data from EMSI. For the Business Incentives Initiative, a collaboration with Pew Charitable Trusts, he wrote state specific reports for seven states and on their business incentive programs, including tax and program expenditures for economic development. He has also contributed to a research project related to state-level data sharing of unemployment insurance records for the Kauffman Foundation.

Prior to working at CREC 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 from the George Washington University and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Michigan State University.


  • The George Washington University, Master of Public Administration
  • Michigan State University, Bachelor of Arts, Political Science
Joe Jaroscak
Joe Jaroscak

Research Analyst
Phone: 703-522-4980 x 1042
Email: jjaroscak@crec.net
Bio Show Details

Joe Jaroscak is a Research Analyst with the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness
(CREC). In this role, Mr. Jaroscak helps to update the State Business Incentives Database for the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER). He also provides technical assistance on economic and workforce development consulting projects for CREC.

Mr. Jaroscak brings experience in housing and community development issues, analytical research, and technical writing. His experience includes work 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.

Before joining the organization, Mr. Jaroscak worked as a Research Analyst for Sage Computing. There, he conducted research and wrote content about issues related to federal, state and local housing and community development policies.


  • University of Cincinnati, Master of Community Planning, concentration in City/Urban, Community and Regional Planning
  • Butler University, Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Spanish
Jaleel Reed
Jaleel Reed

Research Analyst
Phone: 703-522-4980 x2002
Email: jreed@crec.net
Bio Show Details

Jaleel Reed is a Research Analyst with the Center for Regional Economic Competiveness (CREC) portfolio. Specifically, Mr. Reed assists with economic and workforce development projects; 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 ahead of 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 earned a dual-master’s in Community/Regional Planning and Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon. Mr. Reed also holds a Bachelors of Arts in Environmental Science from Northwestern University.

Charlie Braunlich
Charlie Braunlich

Research Assistant
Phone: 703.522.4980 ext. 1029
Email: cbraunlich@crec.net
Bio Show Details

Charlie helps to research and update various products for the CREC portfolio. Additionally, Mr. Braunlich provides data research, analysis and report writing support for various economic development consulting projects. He has experience working on projects focused on program evaluation, workforce development and local economic growth.

Mr. Braunlich analyzes data for the Cost of Living Index (COLI), and assists with the product’s development and marketing efforts. COLI is the most reliable source of key consumer city-to-city comparison costs since 1968. C2ER, a network that is managed by CREC, collects and compares data on more than 300 U.S. cities in order to publish COLI on a quarterly basis. COLI’s living-costs comparisons are recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNN Money, and the President’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Furthermore, Mr. Braunlich provides research and updates to the State Incentives Database, a premium, one-stop resource that economic developers use to compare incentive programs. He also works on the State Expenditures Database, a site that members of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER) use when gathering comparisons on cross-state economic-development expenses.

Mr. Braunlich originally joined CREC as an intern. Before joining the organization, he worked as a Strategic Support Associate at Jackson National Life Insurance Co. in East Lansing, Michigan. There, he processed and analyzed data while pursuing a degree in economics.


Michigan State University, Bachelors of Arts in Economics


Amanda Holmes
Amanda Holmes

Marketing Assistant
Phone: 703-522-4980 x1039
Email: aholmes@crec.net
Bio Show Details

Amanda Lynn Holmes serves as marketing assistant for the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness (CREC).  Ms. Holmes updates and maintains the marketing database in addition to assisting the communications team in managing event marketing and communications.

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

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

Education, Honors, and Certifications:

  • George Mason University: Certificate in Human Resources Management
  • Randolph-Macon College: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology
Ron Coan
Ron Coan

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

Email: edcurmudgeon@gmail.com
Bio Show Details

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.