Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Flip the Script - Economic Development Upside Down

For years, economic development policy has mostly centered around the idea that we should get companies to move here from somewhere else. To do that, we have marketed to industry sectors that we're interested in - and who may or may not be interested in us - and regions of the country from which companies are moving. We've touted our infrastructure, business friendly government, reasonably priced housing and growing workforce. We've glossed over our underperforming public school system, crime rates and low-wage, low-skill workforce. And we've had some success.

But a glance at emerging cities - the cities with the cool factor that we so desire - suggest that the current economic development model may no longer be the most effective way to grow a 21st century community. Cities like Portland, Denver, Austin and others appear to have spent time, energy and money addressing quality of life issues for existing residents first as a means to attract new business. This is the reverse of the idea that the relocation of new companies is a necessary first step to subsequently improve our quality of life.

Case in point - Fortune 500 companies are pursued for relocation (or expansion) by every mid-size city in the US looking to grow. One of the reasons is the philanthropy associated with those companies - both corporately and from executives. I have heard many credible thought leaders suggest we will never be able to support a vibrant arts community without the presence of many, many more major corporations. And yet look at the Orlando Performing Arts Center and its fundraising success to date - and it's not even built yet.

The creative village hinges in the idea that quality of life comes first and business will follow. If we can attract the talented workers today - those who can live anywhere and chose to live where they can find a great quality of life - business will have to follow. Happily, it appears Mayor Dyer clearly understands this new model of economic development. For the creative village to be a success - indeed, for our City to be a success - it will be important that the rest of the community comes around to his point of view.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.