The engine of our economy is no longer manufacturing; it’s people and the knowledge they use. That shift demands a new approach to economic development. Local governments must make themselves desirable places for knowledge workers, and that requires a different set of tools.
“New Approaches for a New Economy” was the subject of a session at the Michigan Association of Planning’s October, 2013 conference, presented by CWA principals Dick Carlisle and Ben Carlisle and Troy Director of Economic and Community Development Mark Miller.
Economic developers once were hunters, chasing smokestacks mostly with financial incentives which were costly, without sure outcomes. Today’s economic developers are growers, taking advantage of existing community assets to nurture existing companies and make themselves attractive to new-economy workers.
“Think of your community as an investment,” said Ben Carlisle. Why would a business want to invest in you? What assets, services and growth opportunities do you provide? How can you create an attractive environment and reduce risk for investors?”
Miller said Troy addressed four elements to create that investment climate
- Planning and zoning: They created more flexible zoning and added form-based codes to crucial nodes and corridors. They placed information online in an easily-accessible format.
- Economic development: Troy hired an economic development director who assembled new tools and partnered with other organizations to share resources. The city is targeting second-stage companies.
- Building inspections: They streamlined their development approval and inspection processes
- Community affairs: They updated their website and marketing and offered more promotion and more promotional support of local businesses
Here’s a link to the presentation slides.