If I asked the question, “Does your city really want economic development?” you’d probably answer “yes.” It might even seem like a silly question. Doesn’t every city want to grow and develop their economy?
While most cities say they’d love to increase their revenue and develop their economy, in practice that doesn’t always seem to be the case. Cities often have trouble getting past the status quo. Here are three questions that can help you figure out why, and also help you start really moving toward economic development.
Why Resist Change?
In some cases, cities face problems that certain groups find it more profitable to complain about than to fix. To quote Aaron M. Renn, a Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute, “economic struggle can be a cultural unifier in a community that people tacitly want to hold onto in order to preserve civic cohesion.”
Similarly, in The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs says, “Economic development, whenever and wherever it occurs, is profoundly subversive of the status quo.” When people are benefiting from the status quo, there will be groups that resist change even when that change could benefit the city as a whole.
There are a whole host of reasons a situation like this can develop. It often happens without anyone realizing what’s going on. In many cases, you’re just too close to the situation to realize why certain groups are resisting change.
Here’s just one example. If a city were to experience economic growth, there’s a good chance outside parties will become involved. One case of this is when cities enter a public-private partnership to finance retail development. But when you bring in outside players, the people currently in power can find some of their influence diluted. In this situation, keeping with the status quo seems like it would be in their best interests.
How Can You Get Past This?
Because resistance to economic development has so many nuances and is so hard for cities to recognize, bringing in an expert can be a big help. Consulting with an economic development expert is a great way for your city to get a fresh perspective on what could be blocking economic development. Contact Retail Attractions today to see how we can help.
If you liked this article, be sure to pick up a copy of my new book The Devil’s In the Details: Things that Challenge City Government and the Language of Development. It addresses glaring problems and issues that destroy foundational economic development efforts for cities. This book also provides guidelines for how to overcome those issues. Click here to order.