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The Latest in Economic Development – 12/19/11

December 20, 2011

This week’s blog entry focuses on different economic development strategies to return to growth, including repealing unnecessary regulations pertaining to “green” energy, workforce development strategies, and whether business-attracting subsidies are performing as intended. Have stories you think should be included?  Comment below or send to common@nlc.org.

Get last week’s blog here.

The idea of repealing regulations sometimes comes with a negative connotation, especially in the aftermath of the recent financial crisis. But on the micro level, burdensome regulations can be serious impediments to meaningful progress in aspects such as small business growth and sustainable energy development. One such area is the process of “greening” homes and buildings which, when adding in the cost of permitting and inspection, can be prohibitively expensive. To take advantage of renewable energy sources, stakeholders in Washington State and New York City have been active in streamlining permitting processes and adjusting zoning laws. (Crain’s New York) and (Seattlepi.com via The Seattle Office of Economic Development Daily Digest)

Urban manufacturing is evolving. The global “container ship” economy has produced a plethora of low-cost consumer products, but they often lack differentiation. The result is that smaller American manufacturers, unable to compete with big box international companies, are turning to open source urban manufacturing focused on making local products for regional customers. It is fostering new relationships between urban manufacturing centers like San Francisco and old blue-collar cities like Allentown. (Fast Company)

Since the tech bubble burst in the early 2000’s, the term “jobless recovery” has haunted the U.S. economy. So while the economy has (slowly) rebounded GDP-wise, employment figures have failed to catch up. This provides evidence that the recent economic strife has been accompanied by more structural unemployment then in recessions past, leaving more people unemployed for longer periods of time. What does this mean for workforce development programs? According to the Hamilton Project at Brookings, training funds should be “directed to evidence-backed programs,” and training programs should “directly engage employer and industry partners.” Read the full report here: (Brookings Institution)

TOMS shoes and other social ventures have given rise to a growing sector of the economy combining for-profit business and non-profit giving.  Social entrepreneurs can add potential to cities by making positive impacts in the surrounding community. The Menkiti Group, a real estate company in Washington, D.C. dedicated to providing affordable housing and commercial properties in urban neighborhoods, is one such example. What then should public officials consider when deciding to support social innovation? Governing.com has some ideas: (Governing)

States have continued to compete with one another by handing out lucrative economic development subsidies to corporations. But throwing unconditional money at any type of problem rarely works the way it ought to. Good Jobs First released a report that acknowledges that while there is no shortage of economic development funds being handed out, they often “require little if any job creation and lack wage and benefit standards.” Read the press release complete with state rankings here: (Good Jobs First)

Industry clusters are not the “silver bullet” once thought, but they can still provide positive economic activity in your region. Hal Johnson of the Upstate SC Alliance states “’if you build it, they will come’ only works in the movies,” and he has a point. But many aspects of industry clusters are born out of simple, common sense techniques – such as identifying what your region does well and taking full advantage of these opportunities to foster job growth and innovation. (Area Development)

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