Placemaking and Business Retention and Expansion

The following is the second installment of a four-part series entitled, “Re-defining the Three-Legged Stool: Placemaking as a Component of Economic Development.” 

The previous installment explored placemaking’s role in business attraction as it improves the quality of life of a community and the marketability of a place. This installment considers how placemaking influences business attraction and retention.

Defining Business Retention and Expansion

Business retention and expansion (BRE) is different than business attraction because it focuses on helping existing businesses already in the community to prosper and grow. Typically, the main tool of BRE is a yearly survey of businesses that economic developers send out to (or make appointments to work through in-person with) businesses in their communities. In cases where businesses are seeking to expand, economic developers can provide access to financing, in the form of revolving loan funds, grants, and other loans, or by providing access to municipal or state resources.

Mixed Uses Contribute to Improved Usability

But, even if they aren’t aware of it, economic developers are also likely engaged in business retention and expansion activities that overlap with placemaking. For example, businesses that are multi-use, such as breweries with attached tasting rooms or small-scale food manufacturers with attached kitchens, often do not fit into one zoning category — though their mix of uses is what makes them unique, and contributes to a lively neighborhood. This can make expansion difficult, and lead to cumbersome zoning negotiations, causing businesses to lose both time and money. If economic developers work with city planning staff to assist business owners in these cases, then they are helping to create more vibrant places with improved usability.

New Uses for Older Properties

As real estate tides change, economic developers will need to be creative about new uses for old properties. Retail outlets and office spaces are being repurposed for apartments, maker spaces and incubators or are being converted into space for existing businesses to expand. The success of these new uses depends on a vibrant, transit-linked, pedestrian friendly environment to attract the kind of young talent that populate these spaces.

Innovation Districts

Creating nodes of activity in centrally located, pedestrian, and transit-accessible areas can also assist with regional business retention. As shown by the Brookings Institution’s research shows, more and more companies are choosing to move from suburban corporate campuses to areas where economic, networking, and physical assets are more accessible, contributing to a rise in what has been termed “Innovation Districts.” These districts combine small businesses, bars, and restaurants with startups, institutions such as banks and universities, and large companies. The diverse mix of tenants leads to more collaboration and an attractive environment for knowledge workers.

Attracting a Quality Workforce

From assisting businesses with zoning issues to encouraging innovation districts, business retention and expansion efforts are improved when viewed through a lens of placemaking. However, the most important determinant for keeping businesses in a community and helping them to expand is a talented and plentiful workforce. Creating a place with a higher quality of life attracts more people to communities and engenders a strong bond that helps retain populations. Smart companies understand this and locate themselves where their workforce wants to live. Placemaking is part of a larger business retention and expansion effort, and offers an advantage that should be used by economic developers.

Three Ingredients to Support Market Opportunities – Moving Beyond Industry Clusters

ProvidenceBlogImageFourth Economy recently concluded a Cluster Development Strategy project for the City Council of Providence, RI. The analysis, conversations and excitement that was demonstrated during the process underscores the need to think beyond traditional Industry Clusters and be open to identifying emerging sectors that may still require definition.

The City of Providence is an example of many communities throughout the country, especially in the Midwest, Northeast and New England, where economies that once were led by industrial dominance are still searching for the right mix of legacy and emerging businesses and organizations to regain strength. While finding an easy strategy to replicate in these communities remains elusive if not impossible, I offer 3 ingredients that must exist in order to advance an approach that embraces Market Opportunities.
Continue reading “Three Ingredients to Support Market Opportunities – Moving Beyond Industry Clusters”

Education Innovation

Remake-LearningI 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. Continue reading “Education Innovation”

PA Standing at the Ready: Creating Proactive Strategies for Potential Changes in Defense Spending

PA-Defense-ManufacturingDefense 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.   Continue reading “PA Standing at the Ready: Creating Proactive Strategies for Potential Changes in Defense Spending”

The Future of Work [Podcast]

Workforce-Disconnect

In September, Dr. Jerry Paytas was featured on Workforce Central, hosted by the National Association of Workforce Boards‘ President/CEO Ron Painter. Workforce Central features public & private sector leaders in workforce development, education, business and economic development discussing key workforce issues and investment strategies to help America compete globally.

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Working as a Freelancer

Freelance-Worker-DeskMore Americans are becoming freelancers, and enjoying the freedom of working independently and making their own decisions. Various studies predict that over 40 percent of the American workforce will be freelancing by 2020. Freelancing is what the “American Dream” is all about for many people. Basically, anything you might consider doing in your own business, you can do on a freelance basis under your own name.  Freelancers can be asked to do just about any kind of work you could imagine with no expectation of a permanent or long-term relationship with a single employer. Continue reading “Working as a Freelancer”

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”

Start Small, Stay Small and Build Products That Matter…Guidelines for Successful Micropreneurship

141202-MicropreneursIn the words of Steve Wozniak, “If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.”

Micropreneurs are a unique breed of business owner who independently work in a niche market, are willing to accept the risk of starting and managing the type of business that remains small, strive for a balanced lifestyle and have the chance to do the work they want to do. Similar to the old-world model of the neighborhood butcher, cobbler and blacksmith, micropreneurs offer products that make a difference and provide amazing value to niche markets. Modern versions of micropreneurs include programmers/developers, writers, solo consultants and online boutique owners (think Etsy). These distinct business owners strive for little to no expansion, are happy to work alone with no employees and are willing to forego outside funding. One discernible advantage that modern micropreneurs have is access to the Internet which allows them to launch and offer their products or services to a world-wide audience.

Continue reading “Start Small, Stay Small and Build Products That Matter…Guidelines for Successful Micropreneurship”

Fourth Economy Helps Launch North Dakota-Minnesota Regional Action Plan

Valley-Prosperity-Partnership6 Key Priorities Shape the Economic Development Agenda

Regional industry, especially homegrown industry, must be an integral stakeholder in the development of strong and effective regional economic development partnerships. It cannot be said enough. This was emphasized once again in Fourth Economy’s recent engagement with our friends from the Red River Valley in North Dakota and Minnesota.

By far the Valley Prosperity Partnership (VPP) is one of the strongest industry-led efforts we have seen, both in terms of time and money.  In addition to industry, it included two of the region’s regional economic development organizations and, oh yeah, two states.  For those who have worked in regional efforts like this, you know it is no small task. Continue reading “Fourth Economy Helps Launch North Dakota-Minnesota Regional Action Plan”

Fourth Economy Organizations

Fourth-Economy-OrganizationsAs I’m getting settled in at my new position at Fourth Economy, I have been thinking about how I can blend my experiences into the team’s current projects and approaches. I have known some of the Fourth Economy team for many years, and I’m certainly someone who has promoted and supported their brand of progressive innovative growth strategies / economic development, and regional development. At the same time, I’m someone who has worked for many years promoting the strategic value that sustainability principles (triple bottom line) bring to companies, organizations and collaborative initiatives. So, I’ve been thinking about the sustainability side of the fourth economy and the organizations we’ll find there. Continue reading “Fourth Economy Organizations”