A great American poet once said, “For the times they are a-changing.” That is especially true today in our economy. Underneath the radar of the rhetoric and public spotlight, the changes in the economy are generating a ripple effect for how industries and people use land. Land use is not a topic that is top of mind for most people, but a few local governments are waking up to the reality that a number of forces are beginning to change the need for land, and ultimately its value. Local governments care deeply about land use, or they should, because the value of land translates into the property tax revenues they need to maintain the community. Continue reading “New Economics of Land Use”
Governor Chafee Announces Next Action Step in Development of an Integrated Plan to Mobilize State and Community Assets for a Better Rhode Island
January 14, 2013 (Providence, R.I.) – Governor Lincoln D. Chafee today announced the next action step in a multi-agency effort over the next two years to develop an integrated approach for the state to land use, transportation, housing, and economic development. Through an open Request for Proposals (RFP) issued November 7, 2012 by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (RIEDC), in collaboration with the Division of Planning’s Statewide Planning Program, Rhode Island has selected a consulting team to compile economic data, analyze the state’s regional performance, and identify strengths and possible ways to improve Rhode Island’s economy. Continue reading “National Firm Selected to Perform Economic Data Analysis on RI’s Competitive Strengths, Areas of Improvement as Part of Sustainable Communities Initiative”
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”
This Friday I will be taking my maiden voyage across the Atlantic Ocean – heading to South Korea for a month of cultural and vocational learning. The trip is sponsored by the Rotary Group Study Exchange (GSE) program, which provides opportunities for young professionals to increase their knowledge of and connections to the global workplace. The Pittsburgh Rotary District 7300 is sponsoring our trip to South Korea, with a focus on green building and sustainable development.
Last month I attended a discussion in Pittsburgh hosted by GTECH Social Capital Council around the issue of innovation in the reuse of underutilized assets. The event brought together a cross-section of interested participants, including lawyers, entrepreneurs, community and economic development professionals, and artists.
Of course when you hear ‘underutilized asset’, buildings and land automatically come to mind. However, the folks at GTECH, who are already working with assets such as waste vegetable oil and dirt, encouraged us to broaden our definition – and so our discussion turned to assets like neighborhood stories, rivers, hillsides, and people. That last one is important in two ways. Abe Taleb, of ReWork, mentioned that according to 2010 census data, when compared to the 40 largest population centers in our country, the Pittsburgh region has the highest poverty rate among working-age African-Americans. Success stories abound about how Pittsburgh is reinventing itself, but imagine how successful we could be if those efforts included everyone in our city? Second, we have existing networks of people and organizations working towards the city’s success, but many have different ideas of what success looks like and how we can get there. In and of itself, that’s not a bad thing, but it tends to mean that our efforts are often siloed. Bringing all of those organizations together to share ideas and resources could help push everyone’s agenda forward.
Sara Thompson, of Pashek Associates, brought up the concept of economic gardening, a strategy focused on building economies from the ground-up. Instead of the traditional model of economic development, where municipalities participate in the zero-sum game of recruiting large employers to relocate, economic gardening encourages entrepreneurship. This is a comprehensive approach however, which relies on data to make informed decisions; coordinates continued learning and access to educational opportunities; sees community development and place-making as key components of economic development; and facilitates connections between a wide variety of stakeholders. The questioned that summed up our discussion that evening was, “How can we utilize this model in Pittsburgh to bring together the amazing organizations already working in the city to build platforms for entrepreneurship, especially while engaging the most disenfranchised citizens?”
Enter, the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone, or PCKIZ. PCKIZ is a consortium of higher education institutions, businesses, government agencies and community organizations, collaborating to enable the neighborhoods in central Pittsburgh to realize their potential within the knowledge-based economy. Last year, PCKIZ reached out to several local non-profits to create a winning proposal for U.S. Economic Development Association’s coveted Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge.
According to Carolina Pais-Barreto Beyers, Vice President of PCKIZ, “The complexity of this RFP made it clear that we needed to leverage the strengths and expertise of several organizations to craft a proposal that was appropriate for our region.” Furthermore, PCKIZ recognized this as an opportunity to address the needs of the region’s underserved communities. “When such a great number of people are completely disenfranchised from all the good things that happen here, our entire region is compromised,” says Beyers.
Working with the Hill House Association, Innovation Works, Duquesne University Small Business Development Center, the Community College of Allegheny County, and the University of Pittsburgh Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, PCKIZ created the Southwestern Pennsylvania Urban Revitalization Project (SPUR). The overall goal of SPUR is to connect residents from underserved communities—particularly the Hill District—with the local energy and health care industry clusters, in part through the creation of employee-owned and/or community based businesses.
And the key to the SPUR’s success? Collaboration, of course. In Beyers’ opinion, “Collaboration among organizations is essential to make an impact of magnitude. Inviting partners of diverse expertise can tackle issues from various angles and in a holistic manner.”
This is just one example of how Pittsburgh is coming together to leverage our existing assets for the continued prosperity of our city. There are lots of ways to get involved, including the upcoming Pop City’s social innovation eXchange (SIX), January 31st at Point State Park. If you have other ideas for how to promote this work in Pittsburgh or elsewhere, leave a comment below!