How much to pay a planner?

Hi Cyburbia! Long time, no posts. I am back with a question, though.

In the coming few weeks I will be making an offer to one of three candidates for a new position. The question I am wrestling with is how much to offer. This position is in a metropolitan area that is about the middle of the pack in terms of cost (101% of US cost of living). The position offers traditional benefits and a couple perks, like the ability to work from home and flexible work hours. I am also considering a bonus program, since it is a private company. Working all over the country, I have seen people with similar degrees and experience paid as little as the low 40's. I will definitely pay more, but what would you think is the right salary range?

Candidate #1: Will earn masters degree in May, two years of part-time experience very closely related to the work in this position.

Candidate #2: Earned master's degree in 2017, has been employed as a planner for less than three years, not doing much work similar to this position.

Candidate #3: Has a masters degree (2012) and has been employed as a planner for five years, doing work somewhat similar to this position.

Here is part of the job description:

We are hiring an Economic Development and Planning Specialist at the entry to mid-career level. The person hired for this position will support all aspects of the consulting practice, to include client development, proposal writing, analysis and report preparation, and limited implementation services with clients in areas such as business recruitment or other economic development activities. A majority of work will be performed in-house with some travel.

Examples of the Type of Work to be Performed

Project support:
- General project management activities such as scheduling, task management, client follow-up, and billing.
- Perform on-site analysis and inventory of conditions within project areas.
- Conduct in-person and telephone interviews or focus group meetings with project stakeholders.
- Conduct or assist with the planning and execution of public presentations, meetings, and workshops.
- Collect data from federal, state, local, or other sources.
- Analyze data and produce charts, maps, tables, or other graphic tools for inclusion in reports and presentations.
- Develop advanced Excel or Access routines to process large quantities of data or perform advanced analyses, such as population projections or economic forecasts.
- Design and conduct surveys.
- Gather background information and synthesize prior planning related to the project and study area.
- Develop recommendations, strategies, and implementation plans based on client goals and the results of analysis.
- Identify implementation metrics and benchmarks, and evaluation processes.
- Prepare economic or fiscal impact analyses.
- Provide direct economic development services to clients.

Business development:
- Assist in outreach to potential clients and in identifying upcoming projects or requests for proposals.
- Prepare responses to requests for proposals and assist in presenting to potential clients.
- Assist in developing content or executing strategies to promote the company.


While requiring very strong analytical skills, this position is somewhat open with regard to areas of specialization. We will be equally likely to consider an applicant with economic development knowledge adding to existing strengths as we would an applicant who is knowledgeable in other areas of economic development, that allow us to provide new services.

Required skills or experience:
- Bachelor’s degree in geography, planning, city administration, economics, or related subject area
- Excellent writing and presentation skills
- A very high degree of proficiency in economic and demographic analysis, and market research techniques
- Ability to develop complex analytical tools using Excel and/or Access
- Advanced knowledge of commonly-used data sources (Census, BEA, etc.) and the ability to locate data from other sources, in support of client projects
- Adequate knowledge of GIS (ESRI or QGIS) to be able to import raw data and perform basic functional analysis
- The ability to produce attractive documents, charts, maps, and other graphics for inclusion in reports or presentations

Desirable skills or experience:
- Master’s degree in geography, planning, city administration, economics, or related subject area
- Professional economic development or planning experience
- Economic impact analysis using IMPLAN or REMI or other techniques
- Knowledge of federal economic development programs
- Knowledge of economic development finance and real estate development finance
- Prior consulting experience



I suck at this kind of thing so I'll just take a stab in the dark and say $50-60 range starting. Obviously it would depend on where you're at cost of living wise and staying competitive with other companies.
The other idea would be to take the local city payscale and bump it up say 20%. I'm not sure how good my numbers are. I'm just throwing out an idea.


I think I would almost say a little lower for entry-level. Maybe something in the high-40's that could be bumped up by a certain percentage when they finish a probationary period. I dunno. Maybe I'm just bitter because after ten years in local government, I'm not making much more than the salary range y'all are throwing out. :)
I would venture to say mid to upper 40's with a 5% increase pending the completion of a 6 month probationary period, plus the possibility of bonus.
A community in my region is looking for an entry to mid level economic development professional and the posted range is: $54,932.80 - $79,664.00. Knowing the community the hiring range will be between $55-65k. Since this is a city the benefits are also strong. Cost of living here is the same as it is in your regions +2-3%.
I work for a large government in the Great Lakes/Midwest region and our Business Development Representatives start at $56k. There is extensive travel involved and they generally also earn a roughly 10% "incentive" pay above their typical salary, dependent on the number of days traveled. The most senior of our BizDev folks max out around $95k.

The qualifications and skills that you describe in the posting are actually a bit more technically advanced than what our BizDev reps have - they would have no idea what REMI or IMPLAN are or the differences between BLS employment v BEA employment or how to find detailed demographic information. I handle all of that for them. They do however have a pretty good knowledge of state incentives and workforce development programs and, most importantly, are skilled at "selling" the region as a place to do business. The sales stuff is the side of the business I would have a hard time with.

Our Planners start about the same as our Business Development Reps and usually have some pretty good GIS or CAD skills but, again, no idea about REMI or fiscal/economic impact modeling, etc. I believe they almost all have an education similar to what you've posted (masters in planning or architecture or environmental sciences or policy). Their jobs don't require anywhere near as much travel as our BizDev folks but they entail a ton of community outreach and work with other local communities/organizations and many night time meetings. Based on what I've seen in the few postings for planners at private firms that pop up in the region our pay for planners is slightly lower but I have to imagine that our benefits and job security are much better.
You can get away with hiring an entry level planner for $45-55k depending on the area. You are going to need to spend a year with an entry level planner to gain any sort of proficiency with what you are trying to do, unless you have your analytical process well delineated and documented for them to refer to.

What you want looks mostly to be a mid-level analyst. A mid-level analyst is probably closer to $65k but sometimes you can away with someone cheaper. The problem is that usually english isn't their native language and they have a hard time writing up their findings.

If you can find someone that can actually do everything you are asking for (business development, can write, good analyst, good technical skills) and be pretty good at it, you probably need to start at $75k.