Assignment Four: Policies

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modified: Wednesday, November 25, 2015 7:59 AM

Urban Planning 539:
Methods of Economic Development Planning

College of Architecture and Urban Planning
University Of Michigan, Fall 2015
Prof. Scott Campbell (home page)

Assignment (+link to assignment page)

Task Concepts/techniques assignment posted date due Unit(s) of analysis suggested page length percent of grade
4. Economic Development Policy survey and comment on the range, intent and consequences of local economic development strategies (e.g., policies, programs, projects) identification and comparison of economic development strategies (policies, programs, projects) Nov 24 Dec 7 paper version (NOTE: no separate presentation) multiple 4 - 5 15


Short Essay/Report. [suggested length: 4 - 5 pages, double-spaced, not counting the bibliography. I would encourage you to use graphics, tables, conceptual maps, etc. where helpful. This need not be just a straight narrative text.]

One observes 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; clustering of synergetic firms; 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. (To develop a list of possible ED strategies, scan through the syllabus topics and the list at the bottom of the page.) One might understand these policies in terms of dichotomous alternatives: e.g., top-down vs. bottom-up; supply- vs. demand side; exogenous vs. endogenous; people vs. place vs. firm-based; command-and-control vs. market incentive; neo-liberal vs. social democratic; export-base vs. local-base; human- vs. natural- vs. social- vs. financial-capital based; etc.)

Your task is to survey the local and/or regional economic development policies and programs in your two case study locations. Given the relatively short length of the assignment, do NOT simply create an exhaustive listing of all the policies. Instead, provide the reader with a useful overview of the most important, innovative and/or interesting programs for each city. Help the reader see both the characteristics of the city's ED policy approaches and the major differences or similarities across the two cities. That is, provide a useful mix of description (of individual policies), synthesis (distilling and clustering the major policies by type), analysis (critiquing the goals and priorities of the policies) and comparison (across your two case study cities).

A bit of advice: if a large city has a large and complex array of policies, you might quickly note the range of major programs and then select 1-3 specific programs for deeper elaboration.

A few possible questions/issues to consider (you certainly need not address all of these; they are merely suggestions):

  • Does the city seem to place more emphasis on attracting large outside firms or encouraging home-grown local firms?
  • Does the city sell itself more as a high-end, high-wage location or as a low-cost, low-wage location?
  • Are TIFs (tax increment financing districts) a big part of their efforts?
  • Do they seem to be focusing more on attracting firms or labor?
  • Is cluster development an explicit part of their efforts?
  • Is infrastructure development framed as an economic development issue?
  • Does the city seem to be targeting a specific type of firm or sector (e.g., biotech, tourism, health care, software, etc.) or are their efforts agnostic as far as sectors?
  • What is the role of place marketing/place branding?
  • Were social equity or environmental sustainability priorities integrated into the economic development efforts?
  • What broader economic development assumptions did the effort draw upon (e.g., export-base theory, multipliers, linkages, human capital development, reducing "barriers to entry", etc.)?
  • Were the programs generic or instead tailored specifically to the community's local characteristics (e.g., amenities, history, strengths, challenges, etc.)?
  • etc.


Note: You may find it easier to give an overall summary of a smaller city's economic development strategy (such as for Ypsilanti), but better to focus on a few specific programs in a larger and more complex city (such as Los Angeles).


A partial list of economic development policies & strategies

industrial revenue bonds enterprise zones reduce environmental regulations
tax increment financing research parks casinos
import substitution university-industry partnerships attract a new state prison
improve local education technology assistance center toughen environmental regulations
job retraining promote international trade build a freeway
infrastructure investment protectionism of local industries improve internet access in community
business advertisement tourism promotion impose linkages on development (developers pay into a fund for housing and community dev.)
community development corporations (CDC) build a ballpark business incubator centers
reduce taxes expand the local airport "Main Street" revitalization through new building facades, sidewalks, BIDs, etc.
raise taxes build a light-rail mass transit system build public housing
a micro-credit loan program retraining program for unemployed manufacturing workers  




As with all assignments, use complete and correct citations (really small footnotes or references fine -- or perhaps use footnotes on one page and have a separate "sources" page). Refer to all sources used (including data, maps, images, tables, graphs, course readings and materials found on the Internet). Please familiarize yourself with standard practice of academic integrity in coursework. --> See this link for complete information.