Sunday, July 26, 2009

What New Roles for the Economic Development Agency?

Hello members of APA’s Economic Development Division (EDD), including the new members of the Resort and Tourism Division who just joined EDD as a Section. This is the first of what we hope is a continual line of discussion, debate, and exchange of ideas for our Division. We realize that our quarterly newsletter, News & Views, while informative, is not an interactive medium for communication. Our members have questions, solutions, and want to talk with each other across the country. As members of EDD, presumably we value the importance of City and Regional Planning’s role in economic development, and vice-versa. This new blog provides a vehicle through which we can learn from one another. Thank you to Shana Johnson for setting this up.

So, let’s start a discussion. APA has asked us a timely question for our inaugural blog. The Economic Development Agency (EDA) is approaching their re-appropriation this coming session. National APA is already meeting with EDA and is an active participant in thinking about EDA’s future role. The questions APA and we have for our members is the following:

  1. What do you think EDA should do in the future as it relates to economic development and planning?
  2. What should APA persuade Congress and the Administration to consider regarding EDA’s function and appropriation? What programs should they continue? What should they modify? What should they introduce and fund?

One thing is clear. Economic development and planning issues around the country have some common themes, but many of the specific problems and opportunities are regional. We look forward to providing APA with our diverse input. Just add your comments and respond to others. We will pass them along to APA.

Finally, APA is already planning for the annual conference next year in New Orleans. Our Division has at least two or three “by-right” sessions, including the new Resort and Tourism section. We will send out a notice soon for session proposals, most likely due later this summer. Please start thinking of good session ideas.

Thank you,

Bill Anderson, FAICP

Chair, EDD

Director, City Planning & Community Investment Department, City of San Diego


  1. Glad to see the blog and that EDA and APA are discussing this topic. I would like EDA funding programs to emphasize Transit Oriented Development, to continue to emphasize brownfield redevelopment and to specifically include and call out eco-industrial parks as an area for EDA funding. We need to continue to illustrate that economic development and environmental protection are compatible goals and eco industrial parks fill that bill.
    Peter Lowitt

  2. Pam M said .....never used EDA funding....been active in economic development for years and been very successful at incentive agreements and development without EDA. I believe EDA should orient more toward assisting the private developer, overcoming regulatory obstacles, EDA is not reaching the developer and investor, they need to reach out and help those willing to take the risk to develop the industrial parks, eco-industrial parks, green buildings, or whatever. The investors are here they just need to be encouraged to invest and be assured that the risk is not so great as to loose their investment.

  3. I have never used the EDA, but I have held planning/economic development positions for several years, and I can think of several topics for EDA (and APA) to have a role in:

    --Impact analysis; I have just started to get into this aspect of development (as opposed to economic development finance), and it is quickly becoming a major aspect of my project review. Facilitating this process would be a great place for EDA to have a role in.

    --Marketing and Recruiting; these are pretty self-explanatory I think.

    --grant-writing, particularly federal grants; with the stimulus package several months in, there are both positives and negatives to the process, but one thing is clear: a well-defined application process would have greatly facilitated grantwriting at the local level. The is another place where EDA could play a role.

    Elliot Liebson

  4. Good to see the blog. Great way to spread the word.

    I have been using blogs for some time to promote economic development in my city. Check out.

  5. EDA has too narrow a focus. While channeling funding to impoverished areas is necessary, the agency could have a much greater impact on national economic development if they allocated at least some resources to planning and research in all areas of the nation.
    Terry Holzheimer

  6. My office is a long standing EDA-funded university center, a program that supports our efforts to assist communities in rural Southwest and Southside Virginia. We have also participated in many other projects funded by EDA. My personal opinions below stem from observations over the last five years of that relationship.

    In general the agency is historically strong in supporting the "bricks and mortar" side of economic development. However, they also seem to be increasingly open to creative ideas that fall outside their traditional boxes. I'm very interested in what little I've heard to date about FY 10 proposals focused on regional innovation. Well-designed initiatives in that area would be welcome. What I see as a missed opportunity that doesn't seem to be rising to the top of any agendas would be to develop mechanisms for greater collaboration across agencies, for example between EDA and DOL.

    Thanks for the opportunity to comment.

  7. Q1: Most federal programs and ED strategies are centered in a 1960's model while the knowledge based economy allows greater flexibility in locating a business. EDA should encourage communities to "Build Better Communities", as APA says, and not focus on building spec buildings or infrastructure in an IP. These are important, but there are other funding sources.

    Q2: The next generation of enhancement funds are being discussed in DC for reauthorization. Perhaps EDA could get into the game with FHWA... Why not expand the discussion to include all infrastructure and not just roads and bridges? Increasing wireless and broadband access, expanding education to include better understanding of technology, and broadening the community enhancement projects are each examples of projects that would directly impact economic growth and development in a community.

  8. EDA is not really a player, their budget is too small for the role that they could be playing. Where I work in Wisconsin they do one major project a year. Is this worth discussing?

  9. I am not familiar with EDA strategies but I would like to see the focus be more balanced between economic and community development. Plunking down a bunch of new jobs in a location that doesn't have the human capacity to fill them isn't necessarily beneficial to the community or the employer. Also, providing flexibility in how ED funds are targeted would be helpful - small businesses should be considered as important as landing the 500 employee industry. And finally, providing claw-back mechanisms to prevent or reprehend the "economic development at any cost" approach some businesses and communities embrace. If the business doesn't deliver or the community doesn't adhere to the plans adopted, money shouldn't be flowing.