Our inaugural member profile features, Dr. Terry Holzehimer, FAICP, Director of Arlington Economic Development and former Chair of EDD and current chair of the American Planning Association's Division's Council. Dr. Holzheimer also serves as an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Tech's graduate program in Urban Affairs and Planning where he teaches Urban Economy and Public Policy and Economic Analysis Methods.
To visit the website of Arlington Economic Development click here. To read Dr. Holzheimer's Virginia Tech biography click here.
What attracted you to the field of economic development planning? I worked my way through college as a draftsman in the Highway Design Section of a public works department while majoring in economics. I was destined to put economics and city building together as a career. I don’t see how the two can be separated.
What do you do in your job? What aspects of your job are the most meaningful and exciting? What aspects of your job do you enjoy the least? I head an economic development program with a very broad mandate. We do the traditional recruitment/retention/small business activities, but also run the tourism program and we operate as a quasi-redevelopment authority. I love it all! Nothing gets the blood flowing like competition for a major employer; it may be old fashioned, but elephant hunting is alive and well in economic development. Building cities is a passion of our staff, and turning obsolete sites into exciting projects is incredibly rewarding. We are also heavily involved in the planning process where development economics is a fundamental part of our plans. So, there is the instantaneous gratification of winning a deal; the three to five year effort of developing a great project; and the 30 year horizon of good planning – what’s not to like? I am a planner but not a regulator and I tend to see rules and regulations as obstacles. My favorite book is First Break All the Rules. No one will ever think of me as planning director material, I have found my calling.
You are currently Chair of APA’s Division’s Council. What other APA leadership roles have you held in the past, and how have you seen APA grow over the years? I really became active in APA about 15 years ago, presenting at conferences and doing various tasks for the Economic Development Division. I ran for Chair-elect and lost and then was nominated again two years later and was elected. The leadership track does keep you involved for awhile: two years as Chair-Elect, two years as Chair, and then two years on the Executive Committee as Past Chair. I then served as Vice Chair of the Divisions Council and now Chair. I believe that the Divisions are a great way to build both knowledge and a network in a specialty like economic development. We have worked hard to create opportunities for greater member participation in a way that is relevant and adds value to the membership. This blog is a great example.
In your role as an adjunct faculty member of Virginia Tech’s graduate program in Urban and Regional Planning you play a role in educating future planners. Is there anything you wish was incorporated in planning education that currently is not? Putting my bias to the fore, I do not think that planners have enough grounding in development economics. I am not sure that planning students also get enough training in basic land use and plans review. There is a tendency to promote topics that are engaging at the expense of the basics. After all, graduates need to be able to get jobs as planners when they leave school. The current recession has had a severe impact on the capacity of state and local governments. How do you see the economic development planners aiding jurisdictions in riding out the recession? Are there any other current or future challenges that should be of particular importance to economic development planners? Planners can play an essential role in providing for the economic sustainability of their communities. Good plans beget great communities. Short term actions guided by a long term plan and strategy are the best bet for building a city.
Do you have any after hours hobbies that you want to share? After my job in economic development, my teaching, and my work with APA, I try to find time for an occasional dinner with my wife and an even more occasional hockey game with my daughter. Go CAPS.