Applying Economic Development Tools to Urban Revitalization

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Cities, towns, counties, and all other local entities in a global economy have the challenge of opportunity of crafting their own economic destinies. This is true for the poorest as well as the wealthiest localities. The most preeminent technique would be urban revitalization. Revitalization is the process of rebuilding thriving economically, environmentally and socially sustainable urban areas and populations, in areas that have been in decline and in those urban areas that are stressed from the continuing influx of people to urban areas. In reality, the forces of nature, demography, technology, and industry are such that no local economy can ever count on an achieved level of stability and security. One of the most significant economic development issues faced was how to fund cleanup and promote redevelopment of “brownfields.”. Brownfield sites also frequently suffer from: crumbling infrastructure traffic congestion; ramped lots; and high crime rates in the surrounding low-income, residential neighborhoods. When a business is looking for a location to build a new facility, it has a choice between purchasing a brownfield site or a bare parcel of land in a rural or suburban area, known as a “greenfield” site. Unlike a brownfield site, a Greenfield site need not be cleared of existing structures, does not pose a risk of expensive-to-clean-up contamination, and does not suffer from crumbling infrastructure, traffic congestion, small lot sizes or high crime rates. If brownfields cannot be made competitive with greenfields, most businesses will chose to locate new facilities on greenfield sites. For those cities to be able to compete for new economic development opportunities, and the new jobs that come with those opportunities, they will need to clean up and clear their brownfields so that businesses may acquire them at a cost that is competitive with greenfields. Those cities also will need to do something to rectify the infrastructure, traffic congestion, parcel assembly, and crime problems; whether real or perceived, that are associated with brownfields. During the 1997 session, the Legislature refunded, enhanced, and created number of tools for promoting brownfields cleanup and redevelopment. Brownfield areas are all around us. Applying economic development tools to urban revitalization can help alleviate some of the issues revolving around American brownfields.

Sales, Promotions, and Incentives-

The community can engage in a variety of public relations, advertising, selling, and marketing efforts. In effect, it can view itself as a product and then make a concerted effort to sell that, “product”. For a firm seeking a location, there is no feasible way to gather objective information about all the possibilities. The community that makes itself highly visible thus gives itself advantage. Business attraction and recruitment strategies gained great popularity during the 1970s when growing regions in the South and West were able to attract geographical mobile firms from the older industrial states in the North and Midwest via subsidies, tax abatements and infrastructure development. While the political salience of these recruitment strategies is well known, the actual effectiveness of these strategies has been challenged. Recruited firms may not stay long before moving to another, cheaper location. Research results, while contradictory, generally support the notion that businesses benefit more from governmental investment in infrastructure, workforce development and quality of life, than they do from tax breaks. Experienced industrial recruiters emphasize the need to target these incentives strategically and carefully evaluate their effectiveness. Today, business attraction and business incentives remain the most common form of local economic development. Business incentives are supported by 68% of all governments and range from regulatory flexibility to tax abatements and subsidies. Planning and evaluation of such...
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