Metropolitan Business Plans: A New Approach to Economic Growth

Too frequently, towns and cities seek economic growth by chasing the latest fad, without considering how those short-term decisions will impact their long-term economic health. On Monday, the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program held a forum presenting three pilot projects that helped communities create long-term evidence-based business plans.

Yesterday’s speakers included Bob Weissbourd of RW Ventures, LLC; Brad Whitehead of the Fund for Our Economic Future, Northeast Ohio Pilot Program; Eric Schinfeld of the Puget Sound Regional Council; Mayor R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis; Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul; Mayor Ray Stephanson of the City of Everett and Puget Sound Regional Council; Derek Douglas of the White House Domestic Policy Council; Daniel Malarkey of the Washington State Department of Commerce; Kim Nelson of Microsoft; and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota.

In cooperation with Brookings, leaders in Northeast Ohio, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and the Puget Sound region have created strategic business plans to promote resilient economic development for each region. The metropolitan business plans will help these regions capitalize on local strengths and increase capacity, allowing each local economy to better weather short-term cyclical economic fluctuations.

One of the ways metropolitan business plans can help a regional economy is by making sure towns are getting the most out of their developed land. A critical element of the Minnesota plan is to connect the business and population centers of St. Paul and Minneapolis to the researchers at University of Minnesota, creating synergies of entrepreneurship excellence.

The business plans encourage collaboration across the region, across agencies and among all stakeholders including private businesses, all levels of government, philanthropic organizations, and educational institutions. By fostering regional collaboration, the cities can focus on creating permanent strength across the region rather than on competing against each other.

The speakers noted that government at all levels could encourage this collaboration and strategic planning. The federal government can facilitate through systematic direct engagement with local communities and economies. Decades of statutes and regulations have created chasms between federal agencies that need to work cooperatively to respond to the efforts being made at the local and regional level. Federal initiatives like the Partnership for Sustainable Communities have made progress on interagency cooperation, while also providing grant funding to these three regions, among many others, to continue implementing innovative development programs. Leaders at the state and federal level should continue working to ensure the removal of any unnecessary obstacles to strategic local economic initiatives.

Visit the Brookings Institution for more information.

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