Academic journal article Cityscape

Revamping Local and Regional Development through Place-Based Strategies

Academic journal article Cityscape

Revamping Local and Regional Development through Place-Based Strategies

Article excerpt


In a world in which subnational tiers of government are gaining power, local and regional governments are increasingly the makers or breakers of economic dynamism and welfare (Pike et al., 2006; Scott, 1998; Storper, 1995, 1997). This ascendancy of subnational tiers of government is a consequence, at least in part, of globalization (Barca et al., 2012; Pike et al., 2006; Rodríguez-Pose, 2011; Smoke, 2003). Because the subnational level is the territorial scale at which processes of growth, development, and change operate, the pressures imposed by an increasingly competitive, knowledge-intensive global economy are more and more frequently incurred at this subnational scale with the effect of "increasing the importance of regional processes and the role of local actors in shaping development trajectories" (Ascani, Crescenzi, and Iammarino, 2012: 4).

Subnational governments the world over, as a result of this global trend toward devolution, have been awarded a mix of powers that vary considerably from place to place. Some have been granted little more than minimal decisionmaking authority. Others have been entrusted with as much as complete control over the design and implementation of full-fledged development strategies covering national economic policies, the attraction of foreign direct investment, education and health policies, infrastructure development, and a range of welfare issues. Although the capabilities and capacities of, and resources available to, local and regional governments may vary, little question exists that the responsibility for generating economic growth and dynamism, and for improving the well-being of local citizens, lies more than ever in the hands of subnational governments.

The empowerment of subnational governments represents an opportunity for localities to assume greater control over their development. More specifically, it affords them latitude to tailor expenditures, policies, and strategies to both the opportunities that arise from, and the challenges imposed by, local socioeconomic and institutional conditions and realities; local policies may differ substantially from the top-down policies that have dominated until recently. The global trend toward devolution has, in effect, opened the door for place-based territorial approaches to development.

Although this place-based approach to development represents an important opportunity to achieve more efficient, sustainable, and inclusive economic growth, questions about it remain: Do place-based development interventions really work? What steps and mechanisms are needed to ensure each territory fulfills its potential?

This article argues that place-based development strategies are off to a promising start and identifies further actions that could be taken to maximize their returns. Specifically, it recommends-

1. Capacity building to ensure that localities and communities are technically capable of shouldering the responsibilities associated with greater powers and developing territorially oriented approaches and interventions.

2. The promotion of multilevel governance to enhance vertical and horizontal coordination with a view to ensure, first, a sufficient degree of coherence between the resources allocated to and responsibilities assumed by local authorities and, second, minimal overlap between the actions taken by various tiers of government.

The remainder of the article is structured as follows. The Local Empowerment and Place-Based Approaches to Local Development section lays out the case for and contemplates the challenges to local place-based development before exploring the utility and effectiveness of such initiatives via a brief digression on an empirical examination of localized development approaches in Mexico. The Toward Equitable and Sustainable Development at the Local Level section considers the operationalization of localized development initiatives and proposes two fundamental steps that should be taken to ensure, or at the very least increase the likelihood of, the successful implementation place-based approaches to development. …

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