Great things are happening through our friends at The Progress Fund! Our own Steve McKnight happily contributed to their blog. You can read the original post below.
By now, the costs of blight and vacancy are well-documented in terms of unpaid local and school taxes, drained municipal resources, further disinvestment, and/or declining adjacent property values. We have also seen in from our clients the key role that quality of place plays in retaining and attracting talent – a key driver for economic success. No matter the size, competitive communities create places where people want to live and work, and blight can be a major blow in that endeavor.
I think that few among our readers would argue that fostering an innovative K-12 education ecosystem plays a critical role in economic development. Employers and economic development officials from any industry will tell you that the critical skills for a modern workforce begin at the K-12 level. They will also tell you that attracting and retaining their current workforce means creating a community in which employees want to live, and education is a major factor in creating livable communities. However, influencing K-12 education to ensure that it’s creating an intelligent and creative next generation workforce often feels like an overwhelming challenge given the systemic barriers.
Defense Department budgets are in flux. Factors such as the Budget Control Act, reductions or shifts in spending related to the drawdowns in Iraq and Afghanistan and responses to future threats could all create significant economic disruptions for Pennsylvania’s defense industry sectors and the regions they call home. The state’s defense industry leaders and the communities that support them cannot afford to risk being caught unprepared by waiting for news of budget changes and then reacting to them. Instead, it is imperative that the sector understands potential risks and prepares for them proactively.
Tis the season for annual conferences – that chance each year for trade groups to tout their accomplishments and relevancy. The Fourth Economy team attended our fair share. What we find scary is that while the workshops and keynotes are conveying the seismic changes occurring in our economy, change on the street, in our communities and programs, appear to keep on keeping on as if it were, oh say, 1999. Many of the metrics for growth we heard remain focused on absolute land development, job creation (regardless of type and cost) and more office space.
When people are looking for a safe place to live, they overestimate the danger from low-risk threats such as crime. No one would say that they want to live in a high crime area. The reality is that nationwide there are only 5.1 deaths per 100,000 people from homicide. Crime is highly distorted because the reporting of crime rises in areas with more people and therefore more full-time police officers. Perceptions and fear about crime are always much worse than the actual frequency and risk of crime.
The Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association recognized Fourth Economy Consulting with a “Planning Excellence” award for its contributions in developing a Targeted Development Strategy for the Pittsburgh neighborhood of Upper Lawrenceville. The consulting team helped the community craft a neighborhood identity and a series of principles guiding future development to achieve the community’s long-term livability goals.
Fourth Economy Consulting has turned five and has topped over 200 client engagements in that short period. And by engagements, I mean that we have had the great fortune to partner with community leaders all over the country as they work to strengthen their organizations and communities. This experience has provided me with yes you guessed it, five notable trends that I wanted to share with you.
As summer BBQs turn to fall tailgates, how often do you find that neighborly backyard burger flipping leads to discussions on how great your town is or how much better it could be. Sure there is always room for improvement, but ever wonder how those opinions and impressions sync-up with the facts. Sometimes we are too hard on our own community when it may really be doing quite well, while other times it is heading for a cliff that nobody seems to notice or care. In either case, gaining a better understanding of how impressions align with the facts is a good starting point for long-term strategic planning.