Economic Development Programs for Cities, Counties, and Towns

By John M. Levy | Go to book overview

2
The Political Context of Economic Development

In general, economic development programs have a very high degree of political visibility. A two-person economic development agency is likely to generate more press and media coverage than a much larger public-works department. Economic development activity is essentially newsworthy so far as local media are concerned. Plant openings and closings, promotional campaigns, and the relationship between tax ratables and the property-tax rate are of continuing interest to local residents. Not only is economic development activity newsworthy but, for reasons discussed in Chapter 9, media exposure is generally to be sought, not shunned.

Development agencies are often quite useful politically, and this is one reason they are created. Liberals and conservatives may disagree on whom to tax, how to tax, and what to spend. But they are likely to agree on a program that promises jobs to the working man and tax relief to the property owner. In a period when the public's esteem for government relative to the private sector is not especially high, economic development programs may enable government to borrow a certain amount of prestige. Rather than appearing as taxer and spender, government appears as a facilitator of beneficial private development. Local economic development is one government program that is popular in a politically conservative period.

The fact that local economic development activities are highly visible and often politically useful also makes them lightning rods for criticism. If the incumbent mayor or county executive created an economic development organization a year ago, his political opponent can criticize him because the organization he is funding out of the taxpayers' hard-earned money has yet to sign a single contract or bring in a single firm. If a firm moves out of the

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Economic Development Programs for Cities, Counties, and Towns
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xi
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Political Context of Economic Development 11
  • 3 - Organization and Personnel 19
  • 4 - Recent Economic Changes 25
  • 5 - The Role of the States 39
  • 6 - What Does and Does Not Work 47
  • Notes 61
  • 7 - Reasonable Expectations 63
  • 8 - Public Relations, Advertising, and Marketing 67
  • 9 - Assessing Economic Development Potential 83
  • 10 - Development Planning 103
  • 11 - Development Financing 117
  • 12 - Labor Market and Fiscal Impacts 131
  • 13 - Local Economic Development in the National Picture 151
  • Appendix. Economics for the Economic Developer 165
  • Bibliography 169
  • Index 171
  • About the Author 175
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