Economic development professionals often must serve as arbiters between ambitious developers and skeptical homeowners. They must be prepared to identify objections based entirely on self-centered biases and those reflecting the best long-range interests of the community.
American state & local economic development enjoys a long and meaningful history yet is largely unknown to economic developers. Why? Our professional past has been collapsed into vaporous and ideological-laden “Three Waves”. Three Wave history polarizes and misinforms us about our three hundred year heritage/professional experience.
Isn’t it time we discover who we are as a profession?
The Four Eras of American state & local ED are an excellent start to appreciating the value of our professional history.
American state and local economic development (ED) has been around since Day One (1789) of the American Republic. My recently-published “History of American State and Local Economic Development, 1789-1990: As Two Ships Pass in the Night” (As Two Ships) presents our historical evolution from George Washington to 1990—all 752 pages of it.
Future issues of the Journal will present observations drawn from As Two Ships along with additional insight and applied to current affairs. These observations will provide a base to rethink one’s ideas regarding the history–and purpose–of American state and local economic development. They can open you to new ways on how to approach your job, research, and your profession.
This issue will discuss the core fundamentals of my history and also will introduce what the “Chapter One Model” and the two approaches, Community Development and Mainstream ED–our Two Ships–that bisect our profession.
President Trump’s challenge compels us to confront the Forgotten People problem swept under the rug by economic developers current paradigms: innovation, knowledge-based economics, university-led economic development, and “gazelle” clusters and occupations. The January article redefines Forgotten People, presents an alternative way to “do” economic development at the state and local level and offers four thought-provoking programs that involve nothing less than a new approach to economic and community development–a community-based, community rebuilding, Back to the New Deal, service sector-focused skills-development employment.
BY RICHARD COWDEN
The stunning election of Donald Trump as president throws the future of urban policy into doubt. During the campaign he promised to bring new jobs and improved infrastructure to the inner cities, but so far he has furnished no details. Some of the strategies carried out by cities and states in the past may offer the incoming administration some guidance.
“The times they are a-changing”.The article outlines the link between populism and slow economic growth. Free trade is the accepted paradigm of global finance and trade. Free trade is characterized by a “lag and shift” dynamic that has made life for our “Forgotten People, the working and lower classes. hell, hence the rise of a hostile populism. Look for no real help to those who are hurt by free trade from these ideologies and paradigmatic economic development strategies. Class and culture distinctions create a serious gap between conventional economic development strategies. Economic development can close that gap by offering jobs, training, and place-based redevelopment to improve the lot of the Forgotten People.
City versus suburbs used to be a very big issue in economic development. It still is! So let’s take a stroll down economic development’s “memory lane”–to the days of 1950’s CBD collapse and resurrect its then- potential savior, the “father of suburban malls”, Victor Gruen. Gruen tried to save the CBD and revitalize the central city–but that has been fogged over by time. What can we learn from Gruen? Why did he fail? What lessons can we glean from these very important years when suburbs became suburbs and central cities assumed their present status in our metro areas?
In this review, I question whether community development in deeply depressed neighborhoods involves a dynamic that further complicates success of its initiatives. That dynamic is race. More often than not, community development initiatives occur in predominately African-American low-income neighborhoods. In this article I raise the issue as to whether the residents of these neighborhoods prefer assimilation over their current neighborhood–a place that houses the “community”. What if a sizeable percentage of residents do not want to assimilate, or define their personal assimilation in such ways that render assimilation difficult. Do recent community mobilizing movements potentially affect the success of current and future community development initiatives by encouraging place-based solutions for African-Americans. Assimilation in such a context becomes a cultural cul du sac that threatens to create a perpetual ghetto.
This issue offers an unasked for critique of several community development issues/principles that reflects an outsider’s sense that this very significant economic development approach is at a crossroads. My recommendation is that community developers might rethink of a couple of long-standing conceptual pillars which have come to be dysfunctional. As a benchmark I will dredge up a perspective, now almost seventy years old, that I believe will be helpful.
Let’s turn the recent Baltimore riots into a teachable hour for economic developers. Sandtown, Freddie Gray’s neighborhood, offers a unique and fascinating perspective on neighborhood-level, people-based economic development. So let’s task ourselves with the following objectives: (1) briefly outline the two types of community development that were applied to Sandtown; and (2) review post 1990 Sandtown community development(s), participants and their objectives; (3) briefly critique Sandtown-style community development, finally conclude, and send you off on your merry way.