The Community and Economic Development program at the School of Government provides public officials with training, research, and assistance that support local efforts to create jobs and wealth, expand the tax base, and maintain vibrant communities. We deploy the resources of the University to support the development goals of communities in North Carolina.
Recent Blog Posts
Small water systems serving 10,000 people or less comprise more than 94% of our nation’s public water systems. They are a large and diverse group, and are managed by a wide variety actors – from local and tribal governments, to mobile home park owners, to homeowners associations, to shopping mall operators and hotel managers. These managers often have many other, very different responsibilities and often face challenges in running the water system. In 2011, 25 percent of the nation’s smallest systems violated health-based standards in part due to their geographic isolation, small staff size, growing infrastructure needs and small customer bases. And as we wrote about earlier this year, small water systems with financial difficulties are more likely to have violations.
Since 2012, the Environmental Finance Center at UNC and the Environmental Finance Center Network have been working to help educate and build financial and managerial capacity within small water systems. Through our work under the Smart Management for Small Water Systems Project, we’ve noticed 5 dangerous myths in financial planning. These myths can appear wherever water system planning occurs, but seem to be most prevalent among smaller communities that are considering creating a new or significantly expanded water system.
At the system’s peak—during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency—railways stretched 254,000 miles across the United States. A century later, due to greater efficiencies and more diversity of transport options, 139,000 miles of tracks remain. 3,300 of these miles are in North Carolina, which makes the state’s rail network the 18th largest in the US (Texas, with over 10,000 miles of tracks, wins handily; Hawaii, without a single mile, is last on the list).
Though regular intrastate train travel is infeasible for most North Carolinians due to the scarcity of passenger rail service, many communities are not far from tracks used for hauling freight. In fact, it was the placement of the railroad that drove growth in many towns across North Carolina (and economic development was an intended consequence of the railroad when the state chartered the North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR) in the mid-nineteenth century). Thus, as North Carolina towns reinvest in their downtowns—and especially as they target redevelopment efforts at the mill buildings and warehouses that grew up along the tracks—public officials and developers need to be aware of the constraints on development near railroad tracks. Read more »
When you make a decision to go forward with a Community Economic Development (CED) project or policy, have you thought through the ramifications for your staff or budget? This year, a course paper on body worn cameras written by a graduate student in the MPA program at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is gaining attention — but not because it touches on sensitive political or racial issues. It’s focus appears much more mundane – how a simple retention policy decision can have major implications for the entire IT department and local government budget. For CED professionals, it is a cautionary tale on understanding your capacity to adequately implement a policy or program before you adopt it. Read more »
In the last 15 years, enrollment in urban schools in 12 cities across the United States (primarily located in the northern states and in rustbelt cities) has dropped an average of 32%, forcing a number of schools to be closed down and students transported to other areas of the city to consolidate resources. Many of these schools were built early in the 20th century and are outdated by modern academic standards – they may be difficult to wire for internet or modern learning aids such as projectors and portable charging stations. These schools may also need considerable upgrades to vital utilities like plumbing and HVAC to be comfortable and conducive to the learning environment. However, these urban schools are often also integral parts of the neighborhood, and leaving them vacant can prove detrimental to the health and vitality of the neighborhood. While the challenges for these large, aging structures are great, their possibilities for adaptive reuse are extensive and can help provide stability in rapidly changing parts of the urban environment. Read more »
The 2015 edition of CityCamp NC was held in Raleigh, June 11-13. It is the sixth year of bringing citizens, local and state government, and businesses together to improve the quality of life through information technology (IT) and the use of open, public data. Local elected officials from Cary, Raleigh and Wake County spoke, as well as IT start-up and established businesses, interested citizens and more. Some of the topics touched on community and economic development.
Previous posts to this blog looked at food deserts and development finance tools that can be used to address food deserts. This post provides an in-depth look at the story of a cooperative grocer in Greensboro that aims to eliminate its neighborhood’s food desert and spur economic development.. The Korean photographer Daesung Lee recently drew attention to the desertification of the Mongolian steppes through a series that juxtaposed billboard-sized photographs of once-lush grasslands against backdrops of the arid landscapes that have replaced them. The process of desertification is at once gradual and abrupt: Lee’s landscapes emphasize the nomadic people and animals that the receding grasslands have now stranded. One thinks of the familiar images of desperate polar bears perched on shrinking ice sheets.
Like desertification, disinvestment from a community doesn’t happen overnight. The withdrawal of businesses, jobs, and resources from low-income neighborhoods happens over time, though large events can precipitate and even hasten greater disinvestment. Ultimately, this process strands residents in deserts not so different from those Lee captures: harsh, inhospitable, and barren but for the people who still live there. Looking at an image of an actual desert is a reminder of the aptness of the term “food desert” for the areas in our communities—there are many—in which residents lack access to healthy and affordable food. Read more »
According to a recent study, infrastructure is one of the most important drivers of real estate investment. This illustrates how the government, and local municipalities in particular, can play a significant role in supporting private real estate development. Supplying public infrastructure can be one tool that municipalities and governments use to encourage and incentivize private development within their jurisdiction. A recent study by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), called Infrastructure 2014: Shaping the Competitive City, surveyed both the public and private sector on issues related to infrastructure and real estate development. Their findings ranked the “drivers” of real estate investments. Quality of infrastructure (transportation, telecommunications, etc.) was at the top of the list of respondents, behind consumer demand and availability of a skilled workforce. Providing high quality infrastructure can be an important recruiting tool when it comes to attracting private development. Read more »
The following are articles and reports on the web that the Community and Economic Development Program at the UNC School of Government shared through social media over the past month. Follow us on twitter or facebook to receive regular updates.
Items of interest related to CED in North Carolina:
Is Greensboro, North Carolina fortunate to have so many foundations investing in downtown revitalization? http://bit.ly/1cHJC1h
Why Elon is joining the North Carolina Main Street Program and the steps it has taken to join. http://bit.ly/1eg5vpW
New law makes it more difficult for Charlotte residents to block redevelopment projects that they believe is inconsistent with local character: http://bit.ly/1eg6DtK
In “Public Schools and Economic Development: What the Research Shows” (2004), Jonathan Weiss demonstrates the increasingly important role that public schools play in an area’s economic development. As businesses consider expanding or relocating into various communities, they look at the level of quality of life for their employees. Public schools are an important consideration in assessing the area’s quality of life.
With regard to the quality of an area’s public schools, one of the most significant issues that local education agencies (LEAs) face in developing quality education systems is teacher recruitment and retention. In their 2013 analysis of SECU Foundation’s involvement in teacher housing, Azaria Verdin and Ryan Smith looked closely at this difficulty. They found that nearly 50% of the teacher work force is approaching retirement and that new teachers are replacing many of those retirees. However, nearly 50% of those new teachers leave the profession within the first five years due to a variety of factors, including low teacher pay. Read more »
In previous posts, we have discussed where to find data to help make smart financial and managerial decisions. Another vital data source for any enterprise is its own financial statements, from which enterprises can calculate key financial indicators. In March, we discussed operating ratio. This post will discuss another key financial indicator–debt service coverage ratio.
Debt service coverage ratio is an important indicator for many aspects of community and economic development. For this blog, let’s look at key financial indicators from the perspective of a business-like unit within government–a water or wastewater system. Key financial indicators are a way for that enterprise to get a snapshot of its financial health and to determine whether it needs to make adjustments to its rates, and they should be calculated annually when financial statements are released. Debt service coverage ratio, as the name suggests, measures the system’s ability to pay its long-term debts. Read more »