Ellen Harpel is the founder and president of Business Development Advisors LLC (BDA), an economic development and market intelligence consulting firm. Dr. Harpel is also the founder of Smart Incentives, which helps communities make sound decisions throughout the economic development
Established in 1999, BDA works with economic development leaders at the local, state and national levels to increase business investment and job growth in their communities. We work with our clients to provide insight into the growth drivers of today’s economy, establish datadriven policies and practices, and deliver business intelligence on target industries and companies. BDA’s services provide practical information that supports the day-to-day activities of economic developers.
Launched in 2013, Smart Incentives serves economic development organizations by providing indepth business research on companies seeking incentives and conducting thorough business case analysis for incentive projects. Smart Incentives is also at the forefront of efforts to develop better processes for monitoring compliance and evaluating the effectiveness of incentive programs. Dr. Harpel speaks and writes frequently on incentive policies and programs.
Prior to founding BDA, Dr. Harpel was a manager with the professional services firm Deloitte & Touche, where she advised economic development organizations on business attraction, growth and retention strategies through the Fantus Consulting division. She also served as an Associate with Charles Percy & Associates, an international business advisory firm in Washington, DC, where she worked with US companies to expand their markets overseas. She has also worked with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Home Builders. Through these experiences Dr. Harpel has gained a broad knowledge of the economic and market factors that drive growth and development in businesses and communities.
Dr. Harpel is a Senior Research Fellow with the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and an affiliate with the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University. She is a member of the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER), the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), the Council of Development Finance Agencies, the European Association for Research on Services (RESER), and the Virginia Economic Developers Association.
Publications include, “Competencies and Policies for Gig and Independent Work” (Journal of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences 2019); “Gig and Independent Work: A New Frontier for Economic Development” (IEDC Journal 2019); “Cost-Benefit Analysis of Investment Incentives” in Rethinking Investment Incentives: Trends and Policy Options (Columbia University Press 2016); “New Disclosure Rules and the Future of Incentives” (IEDC Journal 2016); “Services in the Detroit Regional Economy: Implications for a City in Transition” (The Service Industries Journal, February 2011); “Human Capital Policies in Practice – Thinking Beyond Young Talent” (Applied Research in Economic Development, 2009); “Human Capital and Women Business Ownership” (US Small Business Administration, 2008); “Professional and Business Services in Regional Economies” (IEDC Economic Development Journal, Summer 2006); and “A Governor’s Guide to Strengthening State Entrepreneurship Policy” (National Governors Association, 2004 – contributor).
Dr. Harpel earned a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, a Master of Business Administration from the University of North Carolina, and a doctoral degree in regional economics from George Mason University’s School of Public Policy.