The Latest in Economic Development

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This week’s blog discusses NLC’s 2013 Local Economic Conditions Survey results, a new ranking of state and metro-area small business friendliness, Detroit’s downtown development, a new economic development initiative announced by Mayor Angel Taveras of Providence, Rhode Island, and the economic impact of Major League Baseball. Comment below or send to

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NLC released the results of its 2013 Local Economic Conditions Survey today. From the press release: “The 2013 survey of city’s chief elected officials signals a sluggish overall economic recovery in cities and towns across the United States, despite a broader national recovery. While just over half (52%) of respondents reported improvement in unemployment, two-thirds of city officials said that persistently high unemployment rates continue to cause economic instability in their communities. Further, the changing nature of the economy has underscored the need for local workforces with skills appropriately matched with local employer demand, but data from cities reflects that a skills gap is actually becoming more prevalent.”

Thumbtack, partnering with the Kauffman Foundation, released a ranking of state and metro small business climates this week. The report found that while tax rates don’t necessarily carry a lot of weight in determining small business friendliness, licensing requirements have a significant effect. Co-author of the report Nathan Allen says of licensing: “The time [small businesses] have to spend on it can become a serious burden to their growth.” Utah, Alabama, and New Hampshire topped the small business climate ranking of states; and Austin, Virginia Beach, and Houston topped the list of metro areas.

In related news, Mayor Angel Taveras, of Providence, R.I.,  announced a plan to strengthen the city’s economy by becoming more small business friendly. To that end, he is supporting an initiative to expedite the application process for small business permits. This will be accomplished by allowing online submissions and a system of status updates that will inform small businesses of their application’s progression.

Billionaire Dan Gilbert’s accumulation of downtown Detroit properties has been well documented. Last week, he laid out ambitious plans to develop the areas around his real estate. At the unveiling, “Gilbert’s team repeatedly emphasized possibility… to change the discussion from financial basket case to a city on the move attracting smart people and smart money.” Through his properties, Gilbert has attracted new business tenants – tech companies, an upscale grocery store, a Moosejaw retail store, and others – designed to “create street-level energy that is inviting and comfortable.”

For downtown businesses in Cincinnati, the opening of baseball season (already?) means an in-season economic stimulusLinda Antus of the Cincinnati USA Regional Tourism Network estimates the Reds’ economic impact at “hundreds of millions a year.” Entertainment events like baseball games represent discretionary spending, so if the Reds didn’t exist, the money would most likely be spent elsewhere. But there’s no doubt that the city gets a big spending boost – not to mention and influx of visitors from surrounding locales – on game days.

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