Digital Divide, Main Street Trends and Regionalism: This Month in Economic Development

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Our monthly roundup of the latest news in economic development filtered through a city-focused lens. Reading something interesting? Share it with @robbins617.

Regional Economic Development is on Trend for 2016. Next City highlights how state and local leaders in Massachusetts, the Washington, D.C., area and New York are collaborating on how to strengthen their overall regional economies. D.C. leaders are exploring the idea of joint trade missions, and Massachusetts officials signed a compact to work together on issues related to economic development, transportation, and housing. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo provided $500 million in state funds to incentivize regional partnerships around economic development.

Assessing the Digital Divide at the Local Level. Until the release of Brookings’ analysis of new Census data, it’s been difficult to determine local-level broadband adoption rates, which is defined as the share of households with a DSL, cable, fiber optic, mobile broadband, satellite or fixed wireless subscription. Perhaps not surprisingly, significant barriers to getting online include income, age, employment status and level of education. Overall, household broadband access is most common in large metro areas, but there remains wide variation among adoption rates both within and across regions. Brookings suggests making broadband more affordable and expanding online literacy programs may help close the digital divide and help more individuals access the benefits of internet connection.


Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of the National League of Cities, speaking about the importance of metro broadband access.

First-Ever Index on Main Street Entrepreneurship. The Kauffman Foundation recently delivered a first-of-its-kind report detailing main street business trends from the previous 20 years. The Main Street Entrepreneurship Index found that small business growth is on the rise, but it has yet to return to levels seen before the recession. A main source of growth has been in the micro-enterprise market (businesses with fewer than 10 employees). The nation’s small business owners are also becoming increasingly more ethnically diverse with immigrants owning 20 percent of all small businesses. However, men still outpace female business owners by two to one, which underscores the need for more entrepreneurial support programs targeted to women. (The full report and additional analysis are here.)

What’s the Secret Recipe for Local Economic Growth? According to economist Jed Kolko, the secret recipe includes the right mix of jobs. This finding comes from Kolko’s comparison of the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ ten-year projections for occupational growth to Census data on where those particular high-growth jobs are located. Kolko predicts big, dense cities with large numbers of actors/artists, economists, bellhops and taxi drivers are where we’ll see the most growth. Which cities top this “right mix” list? Durham, New Haven and San Jose.

New, Market-Rate Rental Units are the Holy Grail of Housing. As has been widely covered in the past year, the goal of creating affordable rental housing is much-desired by city leaders, but is extremely hard to achieve. The Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies published a new report  reinforcing this difficult dynamic. Emily Badger of the Washington Post provides her take on this news and highlights that new rental units are “tailored to the wealthy.”

Kudos to These Cities for Shopping Small in Big Numbers. The nation’s biggest cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco) are also the ones where consumers are more likely to shop at small businesses, according to data from the JP Morgan Chase Institute. The study also points out that there is a “chicken and egg” relationship between cities and small businesses. A city needs to have a strong local economy in order for small businesses to thrive, but small businesses also help fuel a healthy local economy.

What We’re Watching: HBO’s “Heroin: Cape Cod, USA” Documentary. This straightforward look at the causes and effects of the heroin epidemic in a seasonal tourism area of Massachusetts is gripping, and encourages you to think about this tragic public health issue from an economic development perspective.

For a Laugh. Baltimore is named City with Best Quality of Pigeon Life.

About the Author: Emily Robbins is the Senior Associate of Finance and Economic Development at NLC. Follow Emily on Twitter: @robbins617.