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
Given complete freedom to choose their ideal home or office, people generally choose spaces that connect them with nature. This instinctive attraction to nature, called biophilia, is explained in part by the way humans evolved. Humans spent 90% of their existence as hunter-gatherers, living in caves and other dwellings seamlessly integrated into their natural surroundings. They evolved to respond to and thrive amongst these surroundings. Only relatively recently, with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution, did humans move into cities en masse and begin to separate themselves from nature.
Since then, the human habitat has shifted indoors to the built environment, where people spend the vast majority of their time. Imagine the modern office. “We put people in windowless offices and give them a computer and a desk and think they should be able to work just fine because they’ve got all the obvious things they need, like air to breathe, artificial light to see by and access to all kinds of information,” says Stephen Kellert. “But we find that they don’t actually work all that well in those kinds of environments. They are more likely to experience fatigue, lack of motivation and higher rates of absenteeism.”
Insert biophilic design. Biophilic design aims to address the human-nature disconnect and improve human well-being by bringing nature into the built environment. It does this by incorporating environmental features (water, air, sunlight, plants), natural shapes and forms (shapes resisting straight lines and right angles), and natural patterns and processes (sensory variability). It can be seen in buildings small and large, from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater to Bank of America’s One Bryant Park. Read more »
Understanding the Tools Available for CED Professionals: How Far Do NC Local Governments Go in Social Media Presence?
This past Friday, at the Southeastern Conference for Public Administration 2016 Annual Conference in Raleigh, second year UNC MPA graduate student Sabrina Willard accepted the Robert Klein Award for her paper on the presence of social media in North Carolina jurisdictions. The results of her paper raise significant questions about the adoption and use of social media in local government, including its ability to support or detract from community and economic development (CED) work. Willard’s paper, including the full dataset, is attached with permission.
Image is obviously important for economic development efforts, and strong community engagement helps community development efforts. How does social media fit in? Lisa Baker called it “A Brave New World” in an article on social media for CED professionals in the Journal of Housing and Community Development in 2012. Baker argues social media is here to stay and CED professionals will need to figure out how to manage the new landscape. North Carolina seemed up to the challenge. In a 2010 report, Read more »
In the past the CED blog has explored the basics of brownfields programs in North Carolina, how they are administered and implemented, and their role in revitalizing communities. In this edition, we’re looking at two innovative facets of the state Brownfield’s program that were developed to better respond to the needs of landowners and developers to clean contaminated sites and bring them back into productive use. The Ready for Reuse program and Redevelopment Now Option give flexibility when pursuing projects that have high public benefit, and so should be in the toolbox of every local government, developer, or landowner when pursuing development or sale of contaminated land. Read more »
In Part I of this post, the CED blog introduced retail incubators and a program-based model that provides financial, educational and networking support for retail start-ups transitioning to brick-and-mortar stores. In Part II, CED examines the space-based model.
Space-based retail incubators allow retailers to occupy shared, tiny or temporary stores in locations that would have either been too risky or financially prohibitive for a retail start-up. Rents are not usually artificially supported, but costs to the retailer are minimized as a function of the size of the space, through shared costs or the type of lease. Unlike with the program-based model, the burden of establishing the incubator does not usually fall on the public sector. As discussed in Part I, property owners have an interest in bringing in and sustaining new retail tenants, and the emergence of space-based incubators across the country highlights the creative measures that private investors are taking to fill vacant storefronts. 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:
North Carolina Commerce Secretary op-ed on the strength of the state economy and the role of Department of Commerce programs: http://avlne.ws/2cGmHbz
WNCT touts local Greenville brewery and the growth of the craft brewing industry in eastern North Carolina: https://t.co/2zZslcRbCI
Other CED items:
Harvard researchers find that although immigrants represent 15% of the U.S. population, they become entrepreneurs at a much higher rate (25%): http://hbs.me/2bSyKkx
Can a new initiative turn the formerly incarcerated into entrepreneurs (and reduce recidivism)? http://bit.ly/2bUqr4T
Brookings Institute finds that economic development metrics for incentives, such as job creation and capital investment, are “deeply flawed”: http://brook.gs/2cGnxW6
Brief explanation of Texas fair housing case that applies new SCOTUS standard for disparate impact (plaintiffs lost): http://bit.ly/2ckxhkR
Will Congress extend the EB-5 foreign investment economic development program before it expires at end of month? http://nyti.ms/2c4vnIN
Many small towns and rural areas had an economy that was built on a single economic sector (for example, logging, mining, or manufacturing) that has changed significantly by technology and/or market forces, leaving residents without jobs and governments without a healthy tax base. Some communities respond with an economic revitalization strategy that seeks to attract major employers to replace lost jobs. Another approach is “Smart Growth” economic development, which builds upon existing assets, takes incremental actions to strengthen communities, and builds long-term value to attract a range of investments.
This past year, the U.S. EPA released Framework for Creating a Smart Growth Economic Development Strategy: A Tool for Small Cities and Towns. This tool is intended for small to medium sized cities and towns that have stagnant population growth, struggling economies, and areas of divestment. It is the latest in a slew of resources available from EPA on Smart Growth, including other tools, publications, technical assistance, and case studies. Read more »
Gentrification occurs when properties in lower-income neighborhoods are bought and renovated that subsequently raises property values but displaces low-income families. Displacement is potentially of even higher magnitude when development and construction of new housing does not meet the demand from an increase in population. In this narrative, gentrification can create additional social and economic inequities due to further displacement of a low-income population from their employment centers as well as reducing economic diversity in an area. The challenge with meeting the needs of a population that might end up being displaced is determining which populations are likely to become displaced. Once that population is determined, local governments could take measures to reduce the negative impacts of a population being displaced and potentially reduce the number of people being displaced. The key is predicting where gentrification may occur next. This blog post will identify several methods that are made possible due to the advent of Big Data. Read more »
A developer of affordable housing for low and moderate income persons has approached the City and County about an affordable housing project near the City’s downtown. The developer’s plan is to acquire and assemble two adjacent parcels—one owned by the City and one owned by the County—and then develop 20 units of affordable housing on that site. There’s a catch: The developer has asked the City and County to provide the two parcels as a gift to the project. Local governments are generally not permitted to make gifts to private individuals or entities, so the developer’s request is immediately problematic. Can the local governments convey their property to the project in order to encourage the development of affordable housing? This post explains North Carolina law pertaining to the developer’s request. Read more »
The CED blog has written previously about the EB-5 program, which as a reminder allows foreign national to obtain a green card for themselves and their families in exchange for an investment in the United States of either $1 million, or $500,000 in an area that is designated as particularly high need (for more information, read here). These visas are an interesting pathway for high net worth foreign nationals to fast track their approval for residence in the United States, and were designed to encourage meaningful investment in the country. However, given the complications associated with finding an investment, and the increasing popularity of the program, since its inception a number of specialty firms have risen to present EB-5 compliant investments to applicants.
In the CED blog’s previous discussion of the program we highlighted the construction of a hotel and marina in Wilmington, NC, which was led by USAInvestCo, a Wilmington based developer whose principals have engaged in projects around the country, and which focuses on providing EB-5 investment opportunities. This post will highlight a similar firm, Education Fund of America, which provides investors with the opportunity to allocate capital to Charter schools, including at least four in North Carolina according to their website. Read more »
The shrinking middle class is a continuing theme in the political discourse this election season. This comes as no surprise because what it means to be middle class is at the heart of the American Dream. As the White House Task Force on the Middle Class led by Vice President Biden noted, being middle class is less to do with income and more about aspirations. Middle class families aspire to home ownership, a car, college education for their children, health and retirement security, and occasional family vacations.
The challenge is that income stagnation has made it harder for families to keep up with the spiraling costs of health care, college tuition, and housing. Read more »