Planning and economic development: Like oil and water?

Usually, unfortunately, honestly, yes. Planners are often from the left, economic development the right. Planners look 5-20 years ahead. Economic development reps focus on the now. Planners have policy backgrounds, academic debate and focus on, well, general plans. Those in econ dev have business educations, think entrepreneurially and concentrate on site/company specific projects. These of course are generalizations, but guess what? It won’t matter to the cities that forge ahead, as they’ll have leaders and teams that represent all of the above.

The American Planning Association recognizes this and published Money Matters: Getting Economic Development Into the Mix, including the following points that both parties should adhere to:

– There are positive, measurable benefits (weeding out political interests)
– Those benefits are long term (emphasizes local businesses)
– The public benefits greatly outweigh the costs (the best projects should go first)
– The economic benefits are primarily local (ie not Wal-mart)
– There are qualitative as well as quantitative benefits (ie placemaking, quality of life, entertainment)
– Economic development incentives should only be used only when investment won’t occur without it.

Economic development: “the conscious, organized effort to improve the local economy”

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