Economic Development

Some may think of smart growth as a physical form of development, but it can look very different from place to place. In a simpler sense it’s deciding how to best use limited resources when it comes to choices about land use, housing, development, and infrastructure. For us, good economic development is about building places that benefit everyone, where everyone has access to jobs and opportunities, and where the economic benefits are distributed more evenly. Our team makes the smart growth case by focusing on both economic growth and fiscal health.

Our economic development work:

Downtown revitalization››
Successful economic development is increasingly about creating great, walkable, and connected places, and we’ve been making the data-driven case for the benefits of walkable downtown development since our founding. We have spent more than a decade helping communities of all sizes restore, renew and enhance their downtowns—the most economically productive land that they have—by identifying the necessary strategies, including improving regulations for land use, establishing clear public investment practices, and reforming administrative processes.

Transit-oriented development ››
We’ve provided on-site technical assistance to dozens of communities to help them capitalize on their transit networks, expand existing service, improve access to public transportation, encourage new housing and development near transit, and build new economic opportunities and pathways to employment for local communities—all with a focus on preventing displacement of existing residents and businesses.

Rural development ››
Smart growth works in all kinds of places. We have spent decades equipping local leaders to strengthen rural economies through a smart growth approach to development. We provide rural residents and leaders with better information about the financial and economic impacts of development choices.

Notable research and analysis from the team

Spotlight on economic development

We spent a few months in 2021 exploring and explaining our data-driven, equity-focused approach to economic development and producing prosperous, resilient places. Improving racial and social equity is directly connected to building strong local economies, but there’s a mistaken perception that those goals are opposed to one another. Done right, both goals are not just achievable, but essential to a smart growth approach. We explained how and why through an informative series of posts.

Read the full series

Unrealized Gains

Are the investments pouring into Opportunity Zones supporting small business stability and growth, achieving the stated goal of place-based economic development and job creation in distressed communities? If not, why not? And what are the risks and rewards specifically for minority-owned legacy businesses within Opportunity Zones? Unrealized Gains, led by our economic development team, took a close look at these questions, and specifically the impact on the minority-owned and legacy businesses that form the social fabric of many neighborhoods in these areas.

Read More

Learn more about Smart Growth America and smart growth

Learn more about our work and how we do it
What is smart growth?