Connections Between Economic Development and Other City Policies

The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development: 10 Things You Should Know is part of the Center for Research and Innovation’s ongoing work to provide city leaders with the skills to become informed, strategic decision-makers in economic development. The “ten things” were derived from analysis of successful city programs and interviews with economic development professionals, elected leaders, academics and business organizations.

    It would be nearly impossible to list all of the various ways in which local government policies interact and overlap.  When crafting economic development policies, it is essential to consider how other city policies support or discourage your economic development goals.  For example, are your transportation initiatives supporting local retail?  Are your local workforce training programs aligned with your sustainability plans? Is the regional housing stock adequate to meet the needs of workers in your community? By thinking about policies holistically, you can avoid detrimental policy interactions and create an environment for different policies to support and enhance each other.

    Policy integration has become even more important over the past 30 years as the drivers of economic growth have broadened significantly.  Today, the scope of economic development and the interests and needs of the business community extend well beyond market access and transportation networks.  Social and professional networks, educational institutions, quality-of-life amenities, talent and workforce skills, and housing are important assets that contribute to your community's economic profile.  Additionally, there is increased recognition that improvements in economic equity and the natural environment are critically important to a strong local economy. 

    For example, the City of Portland, Oregon has created a Sustainable City Partnership to foster a collaborative, citywide effort to integrate sustainable practices and resource efficiency into municipal operations and to strengthen existing policies and efforts.  A primary Partnership role for city officials and staff is to develop connections between environmental quality and economic vitality.  The city has encouraged sustainable business practices and has leveraged sustainability as a key economic sector.

    One strategy to ensure that all of the various sources of economic growth and the key elements impacting economic development are coordinated is to develop your economic development activities in conjunction with your community's comprehensive planning process.  Some communities have formalized this process through implementation of an Economic Prosperity Element.

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