Economic development can create jobs, increase tax revenues, expand existing businesses and attract new ones. It also can worsen traffic jams, gobble up open space, pollute the environment and even make neighborhoods unfriendly to pedestrians.
But citizens do not have to trade in their quality of life to reap the benefits of growth. If economic development agencies adopt policies that encourage the enhancement of existing communities - rather than the creation of entirely new ones - they can make it easier for states to grow while avoiding unnecessary strain on their infrastructure, services and tax base.
Often, that involves restoring places that have fallen on hard times, whether it's through "Main Street" enhancements or brownfield cleanups. Other times, it simply entails ensuring that older communities get an edge in qualifying for tax incentives.
These policies will allow economic development agencies to steer development in a direction that is likely to take advantage of existing assets, to reduce development pressure on open space, and ultimately to save taxpayers' money.
- Give existing communities priority for economic development dollars
- Establish a statewide redevelopment readiness certification program
- Consider using tax increment financing or district improvement financing districts
- Create or support a State Main Street Program
- Increase options for brownfield financing
- Establish a "smart sites" program
- Help universities and hospitals grow in place
- Increase access of local governments and non-profits to economic development funds
- Promote access to healthy foods