Urban Planning 538:  Economic Development Planning  Winter 2014


last updated Tuesday, April 22, 2014 10:02 PM

Prof. Scott Campbell (home page)
College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University Of Michigan
office:  2225C A&AB
(734) 763-2077

Students are expected to complete all the required readings before the scheduled class time, actively participate in class discussions and presentations, and complete several written assignments over the semester.  Evaluation of your work will be based on substantive content, analytical rigor, and writing quality.  Be sure to follow appropriate citation guidelines in all your work. Late assignments will result in point reductions.

Format and Style Guidelines (READ CAREFULLY):


Essay/Analysis #1 (due Jan 30)

Answer ONE of the questions below. Read the instructions above about format and style. Use class readings to support your argument. (Feel free to refer to other sources as well.) Page length: 5-6 pages (not counting the bibliography).

  1. development vs. growth: Planners often assert that they are promoting local and regional economic "development," not just "growth." That distinction sounds appealing, but what does it actually mean? Begin by defining and differentiating growth and development, and examine the implications of this distinction for economic planning efforts. What exactly (e.g., jobs, income, city size, etc.) is being "grown" vs. "developed"? (The Flammang article is a useful reference here, but do also examine how the two terms are used -- both implicitly and overtly -- in other readings and contexts as well.)
  2. Selling Places: Place marketing emerged as a central theme of contemporary economic development efforts. For some, this emergence of place marketing is a logical and inevitable development of the late-capitalist, post-industrial era and its emphasis on culture, symbols, advertising images, tourism, mass-media, amenity-driven development, attracting the high-tech class, etc. Yet others might be skeptical of this pre-occupation with place marketing, arguing instead for "a return to the basics" in local economic development (that is, focusing on concrete, tangible factors such as infrastructure, education and training, tax rates, land development barriers, productivity, etc.) In your essay, examine this tension. (For example, is it the tension between appearance and reality? façade and structure? "soft" versus "hard" locational factors? the "old economy" vs. the "new economy"? or something else?) What is the role of specific buildings and neighborhoods (e.g., museums, stadiums, waterfront developments, shopping streets, skyscrapers, etc.) in place marketing? In the end, what do you think is the appropriate role of place marketing in economic development?
  3. Tourism: The study of tourism might suggest "popular culture studies": a focus on an entertaining but frivolous activity. But tourism has emerged as a huge and growing export sector of the economy: it links together architecture, image-making, the marketing of place, local economic development, and questions of historic preservation and authenticity. In your essay, discuss the distinctive characteristics of the tourist sector in the urban context. When is targeting tourism as a local economic development strategy a useful investment? What are the benefits and downsides of tourism promotion?




Essay/Analysis #2 (due Friday, Feb 28 -- by the end of the day)

  1. The university as an economic entity: Public universities are changing in numerous ways: decline in state support, tuition increases, greater emphasis on entrepreneurship and outcome measures, increased efforts to link to global institutions, etc. In your essay, examine the changing role of universities in local and regional (and state) economic development. (For example: Should we primarily see the university's economic role attracting and training (and retaining) educated labor, as a partner in industry-university research collaborations, as a local land developer, as increasing the purchasing power in the local economy, etc? Is the large research university the new engine of high-tech growth?) To help focus your essay, you might identify what you think are the 2-3 most important transformations.
  2. Place-based policies: BIDs, enterprise zones (and their variations), and TIFs are examples of place-based economic development strategies. Pick two of these strategies and compare (e.g., the best — and worst — contexts for implementation; funding mechanisms; track record for effectiveness; distributional consequences; opportunity for abuse, etc.).
  3. Sports Stadiums: In class we posed the question: if most economic impact studies seem to conclude that the costs of public subsidies in professional sports stadiums outweigh the public benefits, why do public officials still support such subsidies? In your essay, analytically explore this apparent paradox. Cite specific studies or projects where appropriate. How might we rethink this issue (and ways to measure the costs and benefits of stadiums) to improve the public debate over stadium subsidies?
  4. The Arts: What explains the increased interest in the arts as a tool in local economic development? Is this an indication that the arts is an integral part of the late-industrial, creative economy? Or does this interest exaggerate the potential of the arts to stimulate and revitalize local economies? Critically examine the contemporary role of arts-led economic development. Would you recommend that cities increase arts spending as a tool of economic development, and if so, how?




Group Project (due in stages on multiple dates)

Students will work in small teams (ca. 2-4 students each) to examine a specific local economic development challenge in detail. Each group will (a) develop a set of interim deadlines for completing stages of the project; (b) present their results in class during the week of April 15-17, and (c) submit a final written version of their project by the end of the semester (tentative date: April 22). As necessary, we will allocate part of selected class sessions to work on group project tasks. Detailed instructions to follow.


  1. The first option is an examination of the broad economic sector of conferences/ conventions/ meetings as a key community economic development driver. Students will review the literature on the economic impact of conferences/ conventions, and assess current and potential demand for conference/ convention facilities in the Ann Arbor region. If multiple groups choose this issue, we will develop a set of distinct and complementary tasks for each group (though overlap is fine and I would encourage each group to share resources where useful).
  2. The second option is to select a topic not related to the above conference center project. Such a topic might address domestic or international issues of local or regional economic development. You have broad discretion regarding methodology: you might do an economic impact study; a historical analysis; a comparative analysis; policy evaluation; a theoretical exploration, etc. Your unit(s) of analysis might be a neighborhood, city, or region; an establishment, firm or sector; a plan or policy; a demographic group; a social problem; etc. Regardless of the topic, be sure to organize your project around a specific research or policy question, with a clear strategy for gathering evidence (quantitative or qualitative), developing your analysis and drawing conclusions.

Please post your group topic, title, research question, etc. on this google drive document by the end of March.

[Note: the typical class size for UP538 is 15-20 students. With project groups of 2-4 students, I estimate a total of 5 - 8 groups. Given the considerable institutional and local community interest in the topic of the conference/meeting/convention sector, we would ideally have at least half of the groups work on this topic.]

Format for Presentation
We have set aside two class sessions (April 15 + 17) for presentations.  Depending on the total number of groups, each group will have about 15-20 minutes for formal presentations and to respond to questions.  The classroom (2210 A&AB) has both video and audio.

Feedback to Groups on Presentations
All students are expected to attend both presentation days. I will provide feedback forms for you to fill out and return to each group following their presentation. Briefly provide useful advice, such as: areas to expand; points to clarify; arguments requiring evidence or logical rethinking; tacit themes/arguments emerging from the presentation worthy of highlighting; overall strengths and weaknesses of the presentation.

Format for Written Report (due Wed April 23, 5:00 pm)
Length:   a suggested length of 16 - 28 double-spaced pages for text (not counting statistical graphics, maps and other visuals) -- likely more for narrative-rich historical and case study work; less for data-intensive work.  This limit is flexible.   I put a relatively modest page number to make you focus on a tight, concise analysis, rather than to write a lengthy research paper.    Obviously, larger groups will create longer reports.

Style and Organization: Organize your project around a specific, engaging question. A clear structure, a strong narrative, and a logical sequence of analytical steps will lead to a strong final product. Though a common strategy for group projects is to divide the work into separate sections, be sure to allocate time before the deadline to integrate the sections together into a coherent, seamless whole. Pay attention to your "writing voice": for example, differentiate between your own analysis and summaries of other analyses. Strive for systematic and crisp analysis and clear transitions between sections. More advice here (Section 1: "1. Advice for Better Academic Writing").

Citations: Be sure to cite ALL sources (of text, ideas, data, maps, images, etc.). See these guidelines.

Integration of narrative, analytical logic and data tables/charts: Edit and revise to have these three elements of your report support each other.



Take-Home Essay/Final Exam (due April 29, 12:00 noon)

This is a take-home essay exam. Your answers are due no later than 12:00 noon, Tuesday, April 29. (Return the answers to my mailbox or slip them under my office door: 2225C A&AB.)  This is an opportunity to synthesize ideas from class readings and discussions.  Do not discuss your answers to the exam with other students in the course; please develop your own, independent, properly cited answers. Please structure your essay carefully (i.e., think and outline your argument before you write), provide clear reasoning to support your argument, and illustrate with brief examples where necessary. Be sure to answer each part of the question.  Refer to the class readings where appropriate. (If you use direct quotes, place the material inside quotation marks and provide a citation, including the page number. Even if you just summarize material, be sure to cite. See my web page on writing & citation formats.)  You will be graded based on your knowledge of the material; the logic, structure and thoughtfulness of your argument; and the fit between the question and your answer. Your answers are short, so be concise and precise; get to the point quickly.  Be sure your essay is double-spaced, with page numbers, and a single staple. Good luck!

Answer one of the following [page limit: 6 - 7 pages, double-spaced, not counting the bibliography]
1.   The use of public monies and public institutions to promote private enterprise in the public interest raises complex and at times unsettling questions about the proper role of economic development planning. Using class readings, examine the arguments for and against government involvement in local economic development planning from multiple perspectives (e.g., criteria), such as its effectiveness, fairness, legitimacy, legality, impact on innovation, ethics, etc. Where appropriate, cite examples (e.g., stadiums, arts facilities, casinos, Wal-Mart, TIFs, enterprise zones, etc.).  Differentiate between ideological, logical and empirical arguments.
2.   The authors of the course readings have emphasized a wide variety of (sometimes conflicting) elements that may be crucial to creating and sustaining a healthy local economy: a friendly business climate; agglomeration economies; a good offering of local amenities to attract a highly educated workforce; low-cost labor and land; a tight network of innovative firms; aggressive economic development tools (e.g., IRBs, TIFs); proximity to universities, research parks, airports, etc.; active neighborhood-based involvement; protectionism; free-trade; to name just a few. Categorize the major themes and policies discussed in this course by defining and contrasting three or four different schools of local economic development thought (here, a "school of thought" ≈ a shared approach based on similar assumptions about how the local economy works and how to intervene). Explain the basic assumptions, beliefs and favored policy tools of each school, and cite at least several articles and/or authors (from class readings) as examples of each school. (If you use existing typologies found in the readings, don't simply replicate them in your essay. Instead, cite these sources, critique their typologies, and develop your own system of classification.)
3.  American-style economic development strategies are often applied to other parts of the world — sometimes with success, and sometimes quite inappropriately with unexpected outcomes (due to radically different regulatory contexts, labor markets, tax systems, social customs, etc). Select at least three economic development strategies discussed in class (for example, enterprise zones, research parks, tax increment financing, university-based technology transfer). Be sure to precisely define each strategy. Discuss how well or poorly these tools can be applied to the non-U.S. context. Clearly explain your reasoning. To focus your analysis, you may use a specific city or country outside the United States as an example.
4.  The economic and fiscal woes of shrinking cities are well-known. But what about cities that grow quickly: can you actually have too much of a good thing (growth)? Examine the advantages and challenges of rapidly growing cities. How might the type of sectoral growth (e.g., primary sectors, manufacturing, retail or commercial trade, services, tourism, real estate, etc.) and occupational distribution affect the relative costs and benefits of rapid growth? What policies might a city or region implement to best handle this rapid expansion?
5.  Economic diversification and clustering have been two reoccurring themes in the course discussions and readings. Define each term and explain the relevance for local and regional economic development. Are these beneficial traits? Are they compatible, or is there a tension between aiming for a diversified local economy and also promoting clusters?  (You might think of the various case studies in the readings: Silicon Valley, Berlin, New Haven, Detroit, the defense sector, etc.).