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. Continue reading “Regional quality of place and the fight against blight”
Having personally conducted and written more than 75 comprehensive economic impact studies using linear cash flow models for higher education and health care clients over my 16+ year career, I thought it would be interesting to look more closely at how the focus of economic impact reports has changed over the years. Continue reading “What’s New in Economic Impact”
The Fourth Economy team has been busy with several planning and community evaluation projects. I find it very useful to step back for minute, take a few notes and share some observations. Here are four points that emerged from these recent projects to keep in mind if “winning” (attracting-retaining) new investment is a goal:
1) Remember the Human Element
Businesses are not robot-like monolithic entities (although we may feel at times some do qualify as such). They are people, working in a systematic approach to achieve common goals. The things that motivate each of us also influence business decisions. The human element applies to both physical connectivity (transit, parks, walking etc.) and social connectivity (social media, blogs, chats etc.). At our core, we are social beings – we like to share ideas, communicate, connect with others and move about a town. Facilitating these connections with smart infrastructure planning, amenities and through the use of social media encourages community building and civic engagement. Increasingly these factors are helping to attract new investment, making many communities more competitive.
2) Find Your Value
It’s not only about how much it costs to live and do business. It is about the value of a location. I have seen first hand businesses choose to invest in high-cost locations in order to ensure they have access to a qualified workforce, research support, quality infrastructure and customer base. Communities that can provide and promote high value resources, whether they take the form of a university research center, recreational amenities or existing industry network, can remain competitive despite a higher cost structure. This is especially true as companies become more technologically dependent, smaller and require less space.
3) Housing is Fundamental
Don’t confuse affordable housing with quality marketable housing. Without a solid and diverse housing stock (single family, condos, townhomes, apartments), it is very difficult to attract and retain a qualified and professional workforce. As a result, businesses may pass you by. Overall housing values, quality and availability are more important now to the potential buyer, renter or investor and will likely remain so for the foreseeable future, than the cost of housing alone. If your community has an older poor quality housing stock, take steps to reinvent, form public/private partnerships to prepare sites, rehab and reinvest.
4) Education – The New Natural Resource
The analogy = Talented people are to today’s businesses as coal was to the steel and railroad industry. Educational attainment levels as a percentage of the overall population continues to remain a top consideration in the modern investment decision process. If your community does not compare well in this category, it likely won’t change overnight. Look for concentrations of talent within your community or highlight the fact that you may be trending in the right direction. Promote any strategies you have in place to facilitate future change in this area.
We all know that competition for new business investment and residential base is fierce. It’s being played out on a global playing field. These four insights may serve as a reminder or a new tidbit of information to consider as part of a “winning” strategy development.