DEVISING AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN AS REVITALIZATION TOOL
There are many revitalization strategies for downtowns, which many are at the following site, http://cityhallcommons.com/topiclist/d100.strategies.html
however, there is one major factor that many small towns need to be focusing on these days, an effective economic development plan.
question whether economic development is really necessary for downtown revitalization?
Yes, an active economy is the source of community wealth and
Economic development is necessary for a community to renew itself and grow. Many small town and rural communities are losing people, jobs, and quality of life due to economic instability. Unfortunately, small towns are not self-sustaining, and it is no easy task to maintain economic quality, good jobs, good public services, and a broad tax base.
There are disturbing trends in America making overcoming economic weakness harder and harder
1. The formulation of large discount trade stores has created a steep decline in retail trade in small towns.
2. A new global economy has brought greater international competition for low-wage industries and many have moved their operations abroad, resulting in loss of an economic base in small town America.
3. The reduction of economic development grants by the federal government is resulting in small towns having to foot more of the bill for their economic development efforts.
4. Small town banks are a critical source of financing for local residents by filtering savings into local businesses and by purchasing locally issued municipal bonds. However, the deregulation of financial institutions along with the move toward interstate banking does not benefit small towns. Larger urban banks and money market funds can offer more attractive interest on deposits that small local banks ultimately drawing away local capital.
These trends result in small town downtowns across America realizing the need of taking inventory of their economic assets and setting economic goals and objectives by creating an economic development plan as a part of their towns comprehensive revitalization plan.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVES:
… To promote a positive corporate identity that positions the town as a business friendly community with a superior quality of life
… To create employment opportunities suited to the local labor group
… To expand and diversify the tax base
… To support small business development, expansion and retention
… To attract new investment that meets social, environmental and economic objectives
KEYS TO A SUCCESSFUL ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN:
INITIAL STEPS IN DEVISING AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN:
… Identify the community's economic performance over the past 20 years.
ß Research unemployment trends, retail sales, community income and property taxes.
… Determine the community's competitive advantage; in the form of a survey or questionnaire
ß What goods and services does the community produces better than others in the region or the state?
ß How much does it cost to produce a certain good or service?
Which goods and services are not available in your community; why are they not, and can they realistically be offered locally?
ß Why do some residents shop in their community and others do not?
FORM AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT MISSION AND STRATEGY:
Define a specific mission and strategy. The mission should remain in effect until it is changes are accomplished. A mission is simply a statement which summaries the economic purpose of your community for a period of time and how that purpose can be reinforced. Ask the following questions to develop your mission:
ß What do we do best in our community?
ß How can we adapt best to the changes happening around us?
ß What is necessary to address some of the problems: more resources, better organization, new ways of thinking, better understanding of our challenges?
ß Is the way we live or how we do business making the problems worse?
ß Make a list of words or concepts that should define your mission.
An economic development plan should try to include certain strategies:
… A strategy to stop the economic losses from goods and services by establishing a public information program, work with merchants and services providers, and develop a public relations campaign.
… A strategy to encourage new and appropriate local endeavors and businesses, such as business incubators.
… A strategy to invest in the revitalization
and infrastructure of the townís central business
Ultimately, a community should be educated and informed of how trends are affecting the economic performance in their town and how these trends could influence current and future economic development efforts. The community should be involved in the decisions of what economic goals and strategies are realistic. It is important to provide a schedule for implementation and completion of projects. Finally, there is the need to show visual accomplishment of efforts of economic revitalization.
Some resource links for economic development:
http://www.downtowndevelopment.com/. Downtown Research & Development Center. December 1, 2002.
http://www.plannersweb.com/sprawl/solutions_sub_downtown.html. Strengthening Downtowns and Town & Village Centers, SPRAWL GUIDE. December 1, 2002.
http://www.nal.usda.gov/ric/ruralres/economic.htm. Economic and Rural Development Resources. December 1, 2002.
December 11, 2002
 Daniels, Thomas L., John W. Keller, Mark B. Lapping. The Small Town Planning Handbook. Chicago: American Planning Association, 1995. p. 263.
 Daniels, Thomas L., John W. Keller, Mark B. Lapping. The Small Town Planning Handbook. Chicago, American Planning Association, 1995. pp. 262-272.