Pioneering a New Approach to Economic Development

A core principle at Fourth Economy is that economic development works best when it works at the intersection of environmental, social, and economic issues—a concept referred to as sustainable or triple bottom line economic development. A recent article published in Economic Development Quarterly by one of our Fourth Economy Pioneers gives some background into this concept.

Janet Hammer of The Collaboratory, the lead author of this research, notes that while traditional economic development delivers programs, policies, or activities designed to create or retain jobs and wealth, sustainable economic development does so in ways that also contribute to environmental, social, and economic well-being over time. This triple bottom line approach recognizes that economic development both influences and is influenced by a spectrum of factors like quality of life, fiscal health, resource stewardship, and resilience. Continue reading “Pioneering a New Approach to Economic Development”

Embedding Equity Into Economic Development

Guest Blog by Sarah Treuhaft, Director of Equitable Growth Initiatives, PolicyLink

Treuhaft-Inequit-BlogIt is another summer in which America’s deep racial fault lines are being painfully exposed. Following the horrific violence in Baton Rouge, Falcon Heights, and Dallas, in a July 8 poll seven in ten Americans said race relations are “generally bad.” A National League of cities analysis of one hundred “state of the city” speeches from 2016 found that mayors increasingly view racism and inequities as major threats to progress in their cities.
Continue reading “Embedding Equity Into Economic Development”

Business Improvement Districts – Not Just for Big City Downtowns

Business-Improvement-DistrictsBy Dave Feehan
President, Civitas Consultants LLC

Since 1990, Business Improvement Districts or BIDs, as they are commonly known, have become the most effective and accepted method for funding downtown and business district organizations.

For many decades, merchant associations and voluntary downtown councils played the role of business district manager and advocate; but the decline in downtown retail, the shift to national chain stores, and the acquisition of local headquarter firms by national and international conglomerates made these downtown management models difficult to sustain. Continue reading “Business Improvement Districts – Not Just for Big City Downtowns”

WIA to WIOA – What It Means for Economic Developers

The following guest post is provided by Thomas P. Miller and Associates, a national workforce development consulting firm and partner with Fourth Economy Consulting on numerous projects to align workforce and economic development.

Workforce---WIOA-WIAThe Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, or WIOA, was passed in July 2014 to reauthorize Congress to fund federal workforce and job training programs from 2015-2020. It is the first major workforce development legislation in over 15 years and replaces the Workforce Investment Act of 1998, or WIA.

Through WIOA, the U.S. Department of Labor is focusing its efforts on better aligning federal funding with the in-demand skills required by business and industry. States are required to identify workforce/economic development regions and coordinate planning efforts and service delivery strategies. Continue reading “WIA to WIOA – What It Means for Economic Developers”

Eds, Meds & Feds: The Innovation Economy in the DC Metro Region

Although governments have been reluctant to resort to New Deal-style direct job creation, agencies at all levels are seeking ways to accelerate the current economic recovery. One of the most reliable formulas researchers have identified for private-sector growth has been the regional innovation cluster model. Regions build upon their existing university programs, industrial capacity and technology strengths to develop a competitive advantage that promotes export-driven growth with high-value jobs. Some regional planners proudly report that their innovation clusters provide “5% of the companies, 10% of the jobs and 20% of the payroll.” Continue reading “Eds, Meds & Feds: The Innovation Economy in the DC Metro Region”

Back to School: The Institution of Town

Although our calendars tell us that the official end of summer is still a few weeks away, for many of us, the symbolic end of summer comes when the school bells ring.  The days get shorter…bedtimes come earlier…and social media users go into overdrive posting mobile uploads of children waiting for yellow busses.  As a community planner, I’m always fascinated by the changes that occur in our communities when schools go back in session. Empty street corners become social hot spots at 7:15 a.m.  Sidewalks connecting homes to classrooms get more use.  Community parks empty in the daytime and football fields fill on Friday nights. Continue reading “Back to School: The Institution of Town”

Cities Coming to Life

Living Buildings as Regional Hubs for Sustainable Redevelopment

Imagine buildings that are able to produce all of the energy they need using renewable sources such as wind or solar, that capture and treat all of the water needed for building occupants and systems, eliminating the need for water or sewage treatment infrastructure. Mounting evidence suggests that buildings of the future must look like this to secure a sustainable future. The Living Building Challenge (LBC) is leading the charge by requiring these attributes of projects that are seeking its prominent certification. And as cities and towns transition to green building and sustainable living, we look to Living Buildings for inspiration. Continue reading “Cities Coming to Life”

The Future of Urban Farms… or Community Gardens… or Are They One and the Same?

Urban farming is certainly an emerging trend across the country, and has been implicated as a means of addressing community problems like vacant and blighted land, food deserts, obesity and malnutrition, and food illiteracy. Individuals, community groups, and non-profits are snapping up unused parcels and quickly setting up small, productive agricultural plots. Clearly it has overall benefit for people, communities and the environment. But one has to ask, is this really the traditional community garden paradigm with a new catch phrase, or are there true substantive differences? Furthermore, what is the future of the trend that has been the darling of the environmental movement as of late? Let’s explore this.

Continue reading “The Future of Urban Farms… or Community Gardens… or Are They One and the Same?”

Questioning for Answers: Why Asking Questions Can Make us Better Economic Developers


I like to ask questions. I’m always peppering my co-workers, friends, and family with questions on any
number of subjects: how do peanuts grow (underground in a rather interesting process)? Speaking of
peanuts, why is the Peanuts comic strip named Peanuts (Schultz didn’t choose it and never liked the
name)? Speaking of comic strips, what was the first one (The Yellow Kid)? I’m a curious person. Continue reading “Questioning for Answers: Why Asking Questions Can Make us Better Economic Developers”

Leveraging the Halo Effect

In the push towards an innovation economy, universities are increasingly looked to as a driver of economic development activity. The focus on university – industry partnerships is at an all time high. For decades, however, a consistent criticism of academia is that it operates in silos, causing interactions with industry to be a challenging, if not frustrating experience.

According to the Association of University Technology Managers, universities filed over 12,000 patents and generated $2.4 billion in total licensing income in 2010. Simultaneous to this activity, universities generated $4.3 billion in industry sponsored research. While these figures are impressive, one might speculate whether the impact could have been significantly greater if the management of these two efforts were integrated. Continue reading “Leveraging the Halo Effect”