Economic Development Organizations Receive Top Honors for 2017

A perpetual interest in the field of economic development is identifying “best practices” and benchmarking the “state-of-the art” with respect to promising tools, strategies, and programs.  One source for this type of information is the Excellence in Economic Development Awards competition administered by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) over the past several years.  The IEDC awards competition recognizes success, innovation, creativity, quality, and community impact in the work of economic development organizations.

Organizations submit entries to be considered for awards in various categories including promotional materials, internet and new media, programs, and partnerships.  Judges apply specific criteria in reviewing the submissions to select gold, silver, and bronze level winners for each category based on the size of the population served.

IEDC announced the 2017 award recipients in September at its Annual Conference in Toronto.  Two North Carolina organizations were recognized this year.  Electricities of North Carolina, Inc. is the silver winner in the General Purpose Print Promotion category (population greater than 500,000) for its NC Public Power Calendar.  The calendar uses journalistic photos and short stories to highlight distinctive businesses, destinations, and community leaders in the Electricities service area.  The Town of Fuquay-Varina is the silver winner in the Video/Multimedia Promotion category (population 25,000-200,000) for its State of the Town Address video, which communicates the town’s economic development and community achievements.

The Program Awards category includes multi-year programming, business retention and expansion, entrepreneurship, neighborhood development, human capital, sustainable and green development, and real estate redevelopment/reuse.  The numerous award winners in this category constitute a database that is worth mining for examples of best practice and promising strategy.  A few of the notable 2017 winners include:

  • Charleston (SC) Regional Development Alliance – Opportunity Next: Building a Globally Competitive Economy for Charleston
  • York County, VA – Home-Based Business Assistance Program
  • Howard County (MD) Economic Development Authority – Ellicott City Flash Flood Response and Recovery
  • City of Norfolk, VA – Norfolk-Works Waterside Week Hiring Event
  • Prince William County, VA – Prince William Science Accelerator
  • Paducah (KY) Economic Development – Historic Coca-Cola Bottling Plant Redevelopment
  • Northeast Tennessee Regional Economic Partnership – Farmers Exchange Building Redevelopment

New Resource on the Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development

The National League of Cities (NLC) recently released a guide to help local elected leaders better understand economic development and their role in the process.  Produced in partnership with the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), What You Should Know 2.0: Elected Leaders and Economic Development, updates an earlier guide that is titled The Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development: 10 Things You Should KnowContinue reading “New Resource on the Role of Local Elected Officials in Economic Development”

Equity and Economic Development: What’s the Connection?

There is a renewed interest among many public officials in figuring out how to address intractable economic inequities that continue to exist in the U.S.   In response, the UNC School of Government’s Public Executive Leadership Academy (PELA) now includes a session on equitable growth and development, which I co-teach along with my faculty colleague Tyler Mulligan. The traditional economic development profession is also beginning to pay closer attention to the “wicked problems” of economic disparity and income inequality.  The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recently formed a committee to help identify promising strategies to promote equitable prosperity and has been addressing equity concerns in workshop sessions as part of its annual conference the last couple years.  IEDC plans to release a major report on the topic in the coming months.  What’s the latest thinking about economic inequality and equity issues?  What are the implications for economic development policy, strategy, and practice? Continue reading “Equity and Economic Development: What’s the Connection?”

Local Food Systems and Economic Development: What’s the Measurable Link?

There is growing interest in cultivating and supporting local food systems in North Carolina.  In previous posts, School of Government faculty member Rick Morse has addressed “Why Local Governments Should be Thinking About Local Food Systems” and examined the role of local food policy councils.  Most recently, Professor Morse has discussed the network of organizations that are expanding the state’s capacity to promote local foods.   Local food systems are purported to be a promising way to promote better outcomes in communities related to public health, well-being, environmental sustainability, vitality, and economic development. Continue reading “Local Food Systems and Economic Development: What’s the Measurable Link?”

The End of Economic Development Tiers in North Carolina?

In many ways, the system of economic development tiers that North Carolina uses to determine which counties are most in need of state support has never fully lived up to expectations. With the passage of the William S. Lee Act in 1996, the tiers system was applied to all 100 counties in the state. The original intent was to use the tiers to identify the most economically distressed counties that would benefit from higher tax credits being made available to the businesses who locate in those jurisdictions. The policy idea makes complete sense: use a formula to rank all 100 counties based on their level of economic distress and offer larger tax credits to induce businesses to locate in the ones that chronically lag behind. The only problem is that it has never quite seemed to work in practice as originally intended. Could it be time to scrap the economic development tiers system all together and figure out a substantively better way to assist the state’s chronically distressed communities? A new report calls for the state legislature to do just that. Continue reading “The End of Economic Development Tiers in North Carolina?”

Improving Higher Education’s Role in Workforce Development

Human capital and talent are increasingly important drivers of regional competitiveness. States and localities recognize that their economic development success is inextricably linked to their ability to cultivate and develop a workforce that has the knowledge and skills required by key businesses and industries. Communities and regions must operate successfully on each side of the human capital equation by both stimulating the demand for skilled workers and ensuring that the supply of workers is sufficient to meet that demand. The goal is to create lots of good jobs and have great workers to fill them. We can find examples of promising workforce development programs in many places throughout the U.S. However, workforce development faces a number of challenges and transitions even as it becomes an indispensable part of the formula for economic development success. Continue reading “Improving Higher Education’s Role in Workforce Development”

Know Thy Clusters

The concept of industry clusters has significantly influenced our thinking about economic development in the last 15 years. It’s the idea that having a concentration of related industries in a location can benefit firms and regions in ways that enhance their competitive advantage. When firms in related industries locate in close proximity and reach critical mass they will often attract supplier firms and enjoy lower transaction costs as a result. The host region can support the “cluster” by using its local organizations to ensure that a skilled labor force exists and to provide specialized talent, services, technologies, and infrastructure for firms. As I discuss here, the linkages and interdependencies among firms, industries, and supporting organizations we observe in many high-performing regional clusters are thought to be essential. So, how can a region identify its clusters and assess their strength and performance? Continue reading “Know Thy Clusters”

Building Healthy Rural Communities in North Carolina

The Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust is framing a new place-based initiative around an important question related to the long-term prosperity and vitality of rural communities in the state:

What if rural North Carolina was a healthy place? For example:
• What if fewer people suffered from diabetes?
• What if healthy food was affordable and staying active was easier?
• What if each person in the county had a doctor they knew and who knew them?
• What if grandmothers and pastors and business leaders and teachers all had a say?
• What if we talked about health as critical to the future success of rural North Carolina? Continue reading “Building Healthy Rural Communities in North Carolina”

University Roles in Economic Development

Universities can help promote economic development in a variety of ways. As Harvard Business School Professor Michael Porter notes in an article, universities contribute to regional competitiveness by supporting key industry clusters. According to Porter, universities themselves are part of a growing and increasingly important “education and knowledge creation” cluster in the U.S. that creates a sizable economic impact. The substantial hiring and local purchasing of universities are major economic drivers. In addition, universities can invest in real estate projects that improve surrounding communities and, in some cases, they serve as “anchors” for local revitalization.  Continue reading “University Roles in Economic Development”

The Role of U.S. Counties in Economic Development

econ_dev_cover_thumbIn a recently released report, the National Association of Counties (NACo) examines the special role that county governments play in the process of economic development. The report’s findings are based on a national survey of U.S. counties and case studies of local economic development in 34 selected counties. The findings suggest that counties implement their economic development activities in a collaborative manner by working with other local governments, state government, nonprofits, regional organizations, and private sector entities. Continue reading “The Role of U.S. Counties in Economic Development”

Rebooting Federal Workforce Development Policy

The U.S. Congress passed and President Obama recently signed into law the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The bicameral legislation passed with near unanimous support and reauthorizes the Workforce Investment Act, which was originally enacted in 1998. WIOA streamlines federal job training programs and seeks to strengthen performance measurement and coordination of state/local evaluation efforts, among other changes. For greater detail, see the U.S. Department of Labor WIOA Fact Sheet and Overview.  The National Skills Coalition has conducted an analysis of WIOA provisions.  An Opportunity Nation blog post also provides a useful perspective on the enhancements that WIOA makes to federal workforce development policy.

Reining in Business Incentives?



A short piece by the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) adds to a growing number of calls for state and local governments to significantly limit their use of business incentives for economic development such as tax breaks, cash grants, and the like.  The CFR “Policy Innovation Memo” is titled Curtailing the Subsidy War Within the United States and it envisions a future in which business incentives are used sparingly within a framework of high transparency, greater disclosure, and increased monitoring and accountability. Continue reading “Reining in Business Incentives?”

STEM Jobs: More than Meets the Eye?

Jobs that specialize in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are a major focus in efforts to promote economic development in a knowledge-based economy.  The general assumption is that most of these jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree.  A recent report by the Brookings Institution provides an expanded definition of STEM jobs to include many blue collar and technical occupations that require only an associate’s degree or less.  The key findings and link to the full report can be found here.

The study also contains profiles of U.S. metropolitan areas including Charlotte, Greensboro-High Point, and Raleigh-Cary.

Rethinking Higher Education?

There are calls from many quarters to reform higher education and make it more accessible, affordable, and relevant in the dynamic, global economy of the 21st century.  A recent study produced jointly by the Lumina Foundation and Gallup reinforces this theme.  The study reports the results from both a general poll of public opinion and a targeted survey of U.S. business leaders.   The findings provide some interesting perspectives on many of the critical issues currently facing higher education: Continue reading “Rethinking Higher Education?”

A View into the Black Box of Industrial Recruitment

The process of recruiting business and industry, generally, is not well understood by individuals who are not directly involved in that activity.  The more specific site selection process that companies use to locate a new facility is even more mysterious to external observers.  A recent article published in Public Management written by two seasoned economic development experts in North Carolina sheds some light on the inner workings of business recruitment and site selection.  The article is written from the vantage point of a community trying to secure a new industrial project.  In the article, Pat Mitchell and Chuck Abernathy draw on their experience serving in the dual roles of county manager and economic development director, to take us inside the process.  The article illustrates the complexity, potential for conflict, and inherent tensions involved in recruiting industry, and addresses key issues such as:

  • The need to educate elected officials upfront about the process of economic development
  • Why confidentiality is required
  • What is important and who is involved at different stages of the site selection process
  • The importance of effective communication throughout the process

The Promise and Perils of Privatizing State Economic Development Agencies

Many states have transferred various aspects of their economic development programs to private non-profit or quasi-public organizations.  Rhode Island and Florida were two of the first states to take this approach.  In 1995, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation was launched in order to consolidate all of Rhode Island’s economic development activities in one entity.  In 1996, Enterprise Florida, Inc. was created to become the lead entity for economic development in the Sunshine State.  Other states soon followed as evidenced in the establishment of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation in 1999 to market Michigan to prospective businesses, and to promote job creation, talent development, and tourism.

More recently, Indiana (2005), Wisconsin (2011), Ohio (2011), and Arizona (2011) decided to put a public-private partnership structure in place to advance their respective economic development efforts.  The Indiana Economic Development Corporation fully replaces the former Department of Commerce and is designed to “respond quickly to the needs of businesses” by functioning “like a business.”  The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation is Wisconsin’s lead economic development agency and employs an approach that ” is customer-service focused and aligns with the needs of businesses.”  JobsOhio is a private nonprofit corporation “run by experienced business people who are focused on working with job creators that seek to grow and locate in Ohio.”   The Arizona Commerce Authority is “the state’s leading economic development organization with a streamlined mission to grow and strengthen Arizona’s economy” by recruiting, growing, and creating businesses.

North Carolina is the latest state to privatize a significant portion of its economic development activities with its plans to transfer business recruitment responsibilities from the existing Department of Commerce to a new public-private partnership organization.  While many of the specific details are still being worked out, it is clear that North Carolina’s new model for economic development will resemble the more private sector driven approaches of Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Arizona.  Why is North Carolina moving in this direction?  What difference will it make? Continue reading “The Promise and Perils of Privatizing State Economic Development Agencies”

Five Possible “Game Changers” for Economic Development in the U.S.

The economic recovery in the U.S. has not gained enough steam in order to produce significant increases in private investment and job creation.  While the overall unemployment rate has steadily declined, the level of joblessness, particularly for certain segments of the workforce, remains very high.  In addition, labor force participation is at a 30-year low.  What can be done to jump start the economic recovery and lay the foundation for a major transformation of the U.S. economy? Continue reading “Five Possible “Game Changers” for Economic Development in the U.S.”

Incentive “Mega-Deals” in North Carolina

Over the last fifteen years, North Carolina has used hefty incentive packages to get several high profile corporate and industrial facilities to locate in the state.  The projects include many prominent companies such as FedEx, Dell, Google, and Apple.  I discuss the evolution of incentives in North Carolina and the details of the Dell and Google projects in a previous article.

How does North Carolina’s use of incentives for such large-scale projects compare to that of other states?  A recent study conducted by Good Jobs First documents the “Largest Economic Development Subsidy Packages Ever Awarded by State and Local Governments in the U.S.”  Does North Carolina make the list? Continue reading “Incentive “Mega-Deals” in North Carolina”

A New Tool for Assessing the Triple Bottom Line in Economic Development

The so called triple bottom line (TBL) in economic development calls for promoting growth in ways that are environmentally sustainable and that yield positive social returns.  (See Portland State University’s Initiative on Triple Bottom Line Development.)  The TBL framework takes into account the economic, environmental, and social aspects of growth and development efforts and recognizes the connections among them.  Recruiting a manufacturing plant to town will boost the local economy, but how will it affect the natural environment?   To what extent will the new plant be good for the community as a whole in terms of its effects on the quality of life, local culture, civic infrastructure, and the like?  This is a much more holistic and comprehensive way of thinking about economic development and is quite challenging to measure as a result. Continue reading “A New Tool for Assessing the Triple Bottom Line in Economic Development”

Is North Carolina a “Low Tax” State for Business?

State policymakers are considering a major reform of the tax code in North Carolina that could include a reduction in the corporate income tax rate.  One rationale for doing so is the sense that the state’s competitiveness for economic development is being hampered by a corporate income tax rate that is too high relative to other states.  An important question that arises is the extent to which the corporate income tax rate alone makes a big difference in business location and investment decisions?  Or do businesses ultimately care about the total amount of taxes they will have to pay in a particular state?  With respect to the latter, a soon to be released report suggests that the overall tax burden for businesses in North Carolina may actually be fairly low compared to other states. Continue reading “Is North Carolina a “Low Tax” State for Business?”

The Promise of State Sector Strategies

Over the past decade, many states have adopted so called sector strategies that are designed to bring government, education, job training, and economic development stakeholders together in order to better meet the workforce needs of key industries.   Sector strategies also make an explicit attempt to improve the skills, employment prospects, and earnings of workers.  These sector-based workforce development initiatives can be used to create better job opportunities for less skilled and low-wage workers.  (For a related discussion, see this article on Regional Clusters and Jobs for Inner City Workers.) The idea is to enhance state and regional competitiveness by engaging with employers in target industry sectors to connect them with the workers they need.  Sector strategies can be particularly useful when industries have job openings that are hard to fill.

The NGA Center for Best Practices is spearheading an effort to encourage more states to adopt sector strategies and recently released a report that discusses the experience of and lessons learned from several initiatives underway around the U.S.  The report points to evidence of success and provides a road map for state policymakers and regional leaders to use in designing and implementing sector strategies.

The Best Performing Cities in 2012

The Milken Institute recently released its rankings of the Best Performing Cities in 2012.  The Best Performing Cities Index attempts to gauge the level of economic vitality in a metropolitan region based on growth in jobs, wages, and high-tech output, as well as the concentration of high-tech output and technology-intensive industries.  According to the report, the results for 2012 show “where America’s jobs are created and sustained”.  Which metro areas in the U.S. are leading the way in terms of successfully promoting a technology-driven economy?  Which metro areas in North Carolina made the top 25 for 2012, and why? Continue reading “The Best Performing Cities in 2012”

North Carolina’s Competitiveness in the New Economy

Policymakers in Raleigh are grappling with how best to enhance North Carolina’s pwinning_in_the_new_economyrospects for achieving higher levels of economic growth and prosperity.  This has resulted in a renewed focus on the state’s competitiveness as a location for jobs and private investment.  Much of the current policy discussion centers on the role of taxes in influencing the state’s ability to attract and grow new businesses.  One perspective is that lowering tax rates and the overall tax burden that businesses incur will make North Carolina more competitive.  A related tactic is to take steps to ease the regulatory burden that North Carolina businesses face.  While the relative tax burden and regulatory environment are important factors, particularly for certain types of industries, the state’s ability to successfully compete in the New Economy involves a number of other vital components.  A recent report shows how well North Carolina stacks up to other states on several key New Economy success factors.  The results suggest that there is much room for improvement in preparing the Old North State to compete in the New Economy. Continue reading “North Carolina’s Competitiveness in the New Economy”

“Territorial Assets” and the Latest from Richard Florida

Richard Florida has done more than perhaps any single analyst to bring attention to the importance of quality of life amenities and place making strategies in attracting talented, creative, and highly skilled people to a community, which in turn will fuel economic growth.  His influential 2002 book describes the emergence of a so-called “creative class” of workers that is transforming what it means to be a competitive location in the new economy.  Florida defines this new social class as including scientists, engineers, architects, designers, writers, musicians, and artists and anyone else who uses creativity in their job.  Florida’s original formula for success and prosperity in the creative age involved the “Three Ts” of technology, tolerance, and talent.

In a recent article, Florida adds a fourth T to the mix. Continue reading ““Territorial Assets” and the Latest from Richard Florida”

Facts about Small Businesses in the U.S.

My last post highlighted the potential of promoting entrepreneurship and small business assistance as an economic development strategy.  In order to provide appropriate support for entrepreneurs and small businesses, it is important for public officials and local assistance organizations to understand the distinctive characteristics of this important segment of the economy.

The U.S. Small Business Administration recently prepared a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about small businesses and their contribution to job creation.  The document offers concise answers to questions regarding:

  • Small businesses’ share of net new jobs
  • Small business ownership by gender, minority status, youth, and veteran status
  • Different forms of small businesses (sole proprietor, home-based, corporation, franchise, etc.)
  • Survival rates and innovation rates, sources of financing, and shares of federal government purchases going to small businesses

Promoting Entrepreneurship as a Way to Grow the Economy

As the U.S. economy struggles to build and sustain momentum in the aftermath of the Great Recession, one strategy that warrants greater attention by policymakers is entrepreneurship development.  As discussed in a previous post, there is some debate about the extent to which new, small firms drive job creation relative to existing, larger companies.  There is much evidence to suggest that small firms, particularly ones in growth-oriented sectors, can create lots of jobs.  However, the benefits and contributions of small businesses to the economy extend beyond job creation.  For example, self-employment ventures typically do not produce large numbers of jobs, but they enable individuals to provide a valued good or service, earn a living, pay taxes, and meaningfully participate in the economy.

A previous post highlights what some U.S. cities are doing to promote entrepreneurial development.   One strategy being used by New York City is to target and address some of the challenges that immigrant entrepreneurs face in starting and growing a business.  A recent report commissioned by the Partnership for a New American Economy suggests that a focus on immigrant entrepreneurs could yield a significant payoff in terms of boosting the economy.  Continue reading “Promoting Entrepreneurship as a Way to Grow the Economy”

Job Creation Strategies: Some Old and Some New

Despite the tepid economic recovery, many communities and regions in the U.S. are having some degree of success with their job creation efforts.  Inquiring minds probably would like to know what magic formula these places are using.  What exactly are they doing and how?  What factors account for the job creation successes that these communities and regions are experiencing in the midst of persistently tough and uncertain economic conditions?  The answers may surprise you.  Continue reading “Job Creation Strategies: Some Old and Some New”

What can Cities do to Support Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses?

It is widely recognized that small firms with growth potential can be significant job creators in a local economy.  Yet, the role of local governments in supporting entrepreneurs and small businesses is not always clear.  Small firms, particularly those with a high growth trajectory, have a variety of needs with respect to financial capital, managerial and technical expertise, market development and access, workforce development, and innovation and technology.  Local governments may be suited to assist entrepreneurs and small firms with some needs more so than others. Continue reading “What can Cities do to Support Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses?”

What are the Essentials of Economic Development in North Carolina?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

Over the past few months, I have been writing a series of blog posts that explore the important question of what works in economic development. Those posts review some of what we know about the effectiveness of various economic development strategies and tools being used around the U.S.

My experience with public officials in North Carolina, is that they are particularly interested in learning more about what works or could work right here at home in the state’s communities and regions. They want to know more about what approaches, strategies, tools, and promising practices are being used in North Carolina with some degree of success?

This will be a significant focus of the discussion among participants in the upcoming Essentials of Economic Development courses being held Continue reading “What are the Essentials of Economic Development in North Carolina?”

What Works in Evaluating State Economic Development Incentives?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

The Pew Center on the States recently released a report that gives North Carolina high marks for its approach to evaluating the tax incentives offered to businesses in order to promote economic development. What accounts for North Carolina’s strong showing in this “evaluation of incentive evaluations”? How does North Carolina’s approach to evaluating incentives compare to other states? Continue reading “What Works in Evaluating State Economic Development Incentives?”

The Process of Foreign Direct Investment

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

An article recently published in Area Development provides a practical perspective on how companies make decisions about investing in plants, facilities, operations, and joint ventures in foreign markets.  This insight into the foreign direct investment (FDI) process is useful as the U.S. seeks to jump start economic growth.  The article discusses some of the key factors that drive FDI decisions and offers some advice on how the U.S. can increase its share of FDI.

The Obama Administration’s SelectUSA initiative is intended to help boost FDI in the U.S. by coordinating federal, state, regional, and local efforts in an intentional way to attract foreign investment.

What Works in Economic Development: Innovation?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

This is the fourth post in a series that explores the critical question of what works in economic development? Previous posts have focused on business incubation and suburban revitalization.  For one analyst, the most obvious answer to the question of what works can be summed up in one essential concept: innovation. Continue reading “What Works in Economic Development: Innovation?”

What Works in Revitalizing Distressed Older Suburban Areas?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

This is a continuation of the series of blog posts focused on “What Works” in economic development.  Two previous posts (Part I, Part II)  identified some effective strategies for incubating small start-up businesses. This post highlights a recent study that offers insight into what communities can do to revitalize older suburban areas that are experiencing chronic economic and social distress. Continue reading “What Works in Revitalizing Distressed Older Suburban Areas?”

What Works in Business Incubation? Part II

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

This is a continuation of the blog post from December 6, 2011, which examined some of the elements of successful business incubation strategies.

As discussed in the previous post, there are some common practices and characteristics that tend to be associated with effective business incubation programs.  However, there is significant variation in how small business incubators around the U.S. focus their efforts and target different types of entrepreneurs and small enterprises. Continue reading “What Works in Business Incubation? Part II”

What Works in Business Incubation?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

This is the first in a series of blog posts focused on the topic of “What Works in Economic Development.”[1] Upcoming posts will discuss the latest information regarding what we know about the effectiveness of various economic development strategies.  This initial post in the series examines the efficacy of business incubation as a way to create jobs and support entrepreneurs, and highlights a new research study that identifies some of the best practices associated with this particular strategy. Continue reading “What Works in Business Incubation?”

The Talent Gap in U.S. Manufacturing

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

Manufacturing companies in the U.S.  have struggled to find enough skilled production workers for several years.  During periods of robust economic growth, the shortage of qualified workers is particularly acute.  In the current economy with so many people looking for work, it is expected that manufacturing firms would have a lot less difficulty finding workers with the skills they need.  Not so, says a new report that documents a skills gaps that persists even in a time of high unemployment. Continue reading “The Talent Gap in U.S. Manufacturing”

An Information Tool for Post-Disaster Economic Recovery

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

North Carolina’s recent experience with Hurricane Irene focuses attention on the difficult challenge of rebuilding a local economy in the aftermath of a major natural disaster.  There has been no shortage of disasters–natural and man-made–to occur around the globe in past couple decades.  Indeed, the U.S. has had its share: 9/11 terrorist attacks, numerous hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and wildfires.  It is amazing to see how many of the natural disasters taking place in the U.S. since 1980 have exceeded $1 billion individually in terms of economic costs.  The National Climatic Data Center, a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce, estimates that the 109 major natural disasters affecting the U.S. since 1980 caused cumulative damage and economic losses totaling more than $750 billion.  For a listing and brief summary of these weather-related disasters including their total costs, both in terms of dollars and loss of life, click here. Continue reading “An Information Tool for Post-Disaster Economic Recovery”

Strategic Planning vs. Strategic Doing in Economic Development

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

Communities and regions increasingly use strategic planning to chart their course for economic development.  Strategic planning is a process that involves assessing a community’s assets and opportunities and building consensus around a set of concrete goals and strategies for achieving desired outcomes.  Although strategic planning is widely used in economic development, it is not always used effectively.  The process often loses steam once the strategic plan document is completed, and the strategic plan itself often fails to produce tangible results.  A community hires a consultant to facilitate the process, spends considerable time and resources convening stakeholder meetings, conducting analysis, and preparing a final planning document, only to see nothing really get done.  The strategic plan document ends up on a shelf collecting dust.  So, where does the process of strategic planning for economic development tend to get bogged down and why? Continue reading “Strategic Planning vs. Strategic Doing in Economic Development”

The Role of Economic Development Professionals in Job Creation

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

In the third part of a series on “How to Create a Job”, This American Life teamed up with Planet Money to get some insights into the “nuts and bolts of government job creation” by attending a recent meeting of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).  Part three of the four-part series is a 15-minute segment that originally aired on National Public Radio (NPR) on May 13, 2011 titled “Job Fairies”.

The segment was received as an affront by the formal leadership among economic development professionals.  IEDC President Jeff Finkle wrote a complaint to NPR in which he characterized the piece as essentially being an unfair and unbalanced hit job on the profession by reporters with preconceived notions about the value of economic development efforts. Continue reading “The Role of Economic Development Professionals in Job Creation”

Measuring Results in Economic Development

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

In the face of lean budgets and an uneven economic recovery, public officials are keenly interested in understanding how well their jurisdiction’s economic development programs are performing.  In these tough times, much is riding on the success of a community’s efforts to stimulate private investment, create jobs, and expand the tax base.

The cover article for the June 2011 issue of Public Management discusses how a focus on economic development outcomes and results may produce a more meaningful set of performance measures than simply counting activities.  Continue reading “Measuring Results in Economic Development”

The Top Small Cities for Corporate Facilities in 2010

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

Small communities can face numerous challenges in competing for new and expanding corporate facilities.  Many of them lack the sites and buildings, workforce skills, infrastructure, and financial resources required to be a viable location for major corporate real estate projects.  Despite these challenges, several small cities and towns across the U.S. are enjoying some degree of success in landing corporate facilities.  In 2010, under weak economic conditions, two small cities in North Carolina outperformed their counterparts elsewhere in the nation in terms of new and expanding facility locations.  Who are they? Continue reading “The Top Small Cities for Corporate Facilities in 2010”

What Matters Most for Business Locations and Expansions?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

Public officials and economic developers want to know what is required for their communities to be attractive and competitive locations for new private investment.  A good starting point is to understand which factors businesses consider to be most important when making decisions about where to locate new and expanding facilities.  One source for this information is Area Development Magazine, which conducts a corporate survey every year in order to gauge the importance of the many variables considered in the process of choosing a site for a business facility.  Area Development uses its survey responses to rank site selection factors based on their relative importance. Continue reading “What Matters Most for Business Locations and Expansions?”

North Carolina’s Emerging Data Center Cluster

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

As a new year begins, economic developers and public officials in North Carolina must feel pretty good about the state’s prospects in 2011 for building on its recent success in attracting several major data center facilities.  In a few short years, North Carolina has emerged as a major contender for these types of facilities. Continue reading “North Carolina’s Emerging Data Center Cluster”

Boosting Exports as an Economic Development Strategy

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

One of the most fundamental theories of economic development is the idea that certain industry sectors will have a greater economic impact on a community or region because they sell goods and services outside the local economy thereby bringing new dollars in.  We refer to these sectors as “basic”, “traded”, or “export” industries.  Such export-based industries will have national and global markets for their goods and services and will typically pay higher wages and generate more income for a region than “non-basic” or “non-traded” industries that primarily serve the local economy.  The classic export industry is manufacturing, which has been a central focus of economic development for many years as a result.  Many service industries and retail establishments are considered to be non-basic/non-traded since what they sell tends to be consumed locally.  Export industries are thought to generate a significant multiplier “ripple” effect on other sectors in a regional economy.  For example, one job created by an export-based firm will tend to support many additional jobs in various other industries.  Knowingly and unknowingly, many communities and regions pursue economic development strategies that are built on this underlying theory of the economic base: promote basic, export industries, which in turn will support non-basic, local-serving industries. Continue reading “Boosting Exports as an Economic Development Strategy”

Where are the Jobs?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

The latest national employment numbers for June 2010 show some modest private sector job creation despite a decline overall in total nonfarm employment.  The unemployment rate dropped a bit to 9.5 percent from 9.7 percent in May.  The U.S. economy lost 125,000 jobs in June, in large part due to a decrease in temporary workers hired by the federal government to help conduct the decennial census.  The loss of 225,000 census workers was partially offset by a gain of 83,000 jobs in the private sector.

The monthly increase in private sector employment was driven by growth in the following industry sectors:

Leisure and hospitality, +37,000

  • Amusements, gambling, and recreation, +28,000

Professional and business services, +46,000

  • Temporary help services, +21,000
  • Management and technical consulting, +11,000
  • Business support services, +7,000

Transportation and warehousing, +15,000

Health care, +9,000

Manufacturing, +9,000

  • Fabricated metal products, +7,000

Mining, +6,000

As I look at these numbers, I wonder if they indicate that U.S. job creation is on the rebound in a meaningful and sustainable way.  This does not appear to be a jobless recovery in the purest sense, given that thousands of jobs are being created in the private sector.  However, most economists contend that we are not yet seeing anything close to the level of job creation required to return to pre-recession employment levels.  For example, even though the U.S. economy has added nearly 600,000 jobs since the beginning of the year, total private employment was 7.9 million less in June than it was in December of 2007.

I also wonder how the national employment trends are playing out in North Carolina.  Continue reading “Where are the Jobs?”

A World without Economic Development Incentives?

Jonathan Morgan is a School of Government faculty member.

In May 2010, American Express chose Guilford County as the location for a new $400 million data storage center that will initially employ about 50 people, but could eventually grow to 150 workers.  Local officials and economic developers were pleasantly surprised that the company decided to locate what will be two new facilities in Guilford County without asking for a dime in incentives.  It had been assumed that up to $13 million in incentives from the City of Greensboro and Guilford County might be required to close the deal, but no incentive dollars were requested and none were offered.

Does the fact that American Express picked Guilford County with no incentives being put on the table to sway the decision signal the beginning of the end of incentives as we know them?  Could this be the start of a trend in which an increasing number of companies will forgo incentives when making decisions about where to locate new corporate facilities? Continue reading “A World without Economic Development Incentives?”

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