Economic Development


At their core, initiatives to promote sustainability and economic development are based on several parallel objectives - maximizing outputs while minimizing inputs, avoiding or reducing wasted resources, valuing quality, and investing with an eye toward long-term growth. For cities, a comprehensive approach to sustainability will naturally enhance economic development by not only eliminating waste and increasing efficiency, but by helping to create healthy, attractive, equitable, and safe places to live, work, and do business. Increased quality of life and sense of community, associated with many sustainability initiatives, have been shown to result in increased property values, business revenues, and attraction of private investment and a skilled workforce.

NLC views economic prosperity as a defining component of what makes a sustainable city and promotes green economic development strategies to link these complementary issue areas.


Sustainable Connections: Linking Sustainability and Economic Development Strategies (2011)
Sustainability is a fundamental component of building a strong community, not only in terms of the physical environment, but also for economic prosperity. In recent years many cities across the country have begun providing leadership and advancing economic strategies by incorporating environmental stewardship and sustainability principles throughout programs to promote economic development. This City Practice Brief, made possible through The Home Depot Foundation, NLC's Sustainability Partner, highlights the strategies and experiences of four cities, Denver, Colo., Boston, Mass., Chattanooga, Tenn., and Grand Rapids, Mich., using sustainability to spur economic growth.  

Sustainable Connections: Strategies to Support Local Economies (2011)
Economic health and prosperity is a defining component of sustainability. Yet until recently the conversation surrounding sustainability efforts has focused largely on issues of environmental protection and too often presumed to be in competition with, or otherwise tangential to, economic growth. This guide presents five components often associated with sustainability - green space, community design, complete streets, food access and green buildings - that also benefit the local economy and in so doing, may enhance regional resiliency and the ability of cities to compete in the global marketplace. This publication has been made possible through a grant from Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo Environmental Forum: Cities Find Value in Sustainability

Partners for the Future: Public Libraries and Local Governments Creating Sustainable Communities (2010)
This report from the Urban Libraries Council profiles the significant role of public libraries in achieving sustainable communities, and provides examples of how a strategic relationship between the library and the local government can become a powerful partnership for addressing all facets of sustainability's triple bottom line.

Economic Development and Sustainability (2008)
This guide summarizes city initiatives linking the goals of sustainability and economic development in order to revitalize areas, create jobs, protect natural resources, and save money.   Examples focus heavily, though not exclusively, on brownfield revitalization and other land use strategies.

Past Events

The Following workshop was held at The Green Cities Conference, one of four concurrent conferences at the Congress of Cities and Exposition held in Phoenix, November 9-12, 2011. 

Fixing the Future -Fixing the Future profiles people creating the new economy and sustainable ways of living from the ground up. In this PBS NOW documentary David Brancaccio visits communities across America that are using innovative approaches to create jobs and build prosperity. He talks to working Americans from Maine to Washington State, and from Texas to Ohio, who are re-engineering the future and building on American values of commonwealth, shared prosperity, fairness, wellbeing, sustainability, and creativity. A facilitated discussion will follow to explore questions such as - 'Is a new economy possible?' and 'What role will cities play in promoting sustainable, equitable, and prosperous growth?'

Webinar: "Workforce Development for a Green Economy"
Many communities are grappling with how the potential of green jobs can translate into their local economies. To help cities better understand this topic, NLC, in partnership with U.S. Department of Labor, hosted a webinar to explore strategies local leaders can use to assess opportunities and prepare local workers.

Nation's Cities Weekly Articles

Regional Partnerships, Planning Key to Economic Development (December 7, 2009)
Steve Weathers of Regional Growth Partnership discusses characteristics of successful regional development and strategies for cities to build on and strengthen existing assets.