Is more growth always better?
Not according to a new paper from the Brookings Institution on Remaking Economic Development. Particularly when the pursuit of growth focuses more on incentive-driven initiatives than on workers and existing local businesses.
The alternative vision of economic development laid out in the paper is a regional system of economic growth and development that involves a cross-section of elected officials, stakeholders, and economic developers. Its goal should be to drive robust long-term regional growth that raises standards of living for all.
In order to achieve this vision, economic development leaders must start with getting both the markets and the civics right. Industry clusters, according to the report, are the foundation of regional economies, and economic development should nurture strong business ecosystems that grow existing local businesses and sectors. On the civics front, economic development should focus on organizing local assets and stakeholders to implement strategies and achieve long-term goals.
Remaking Economic Development provides five principles for implementingthis vision of economic development: setting the right goals and success metrics, growing from within by prioritizing emerging and established businesses and industries, boosting trade to encourage export growth, investing in people and skills, and connecting to place by focusing on solutions that are regional in scale.
From stagnant wages and lagging productivity to demographic and technological shifts, communities in the United States and around the world face economic challenges. The ability to innovate and adapt will be critical for future prosperity. While this report focuses on the American economic development context, it highlights the need for all practitioners to think more holistically about economic development (by prioritizing workforce development for example), to understand that place plays a key role in innovation, and to build collaborative relationships.