The Local Pursuit of Quality: A "Can't-Lose"
The previous chapters have sought to broaden the meaning of "economic" and "the economy," so as to escape the commercial and quantitative bias that distorts most discussions of the local economy. Those chapters have been highly critical of the way in which the local economy is conceived both in our folk economics and in some of the theoretical models of professional economists alike. Both lead to policies being urged that are either ineffective or actually damaging. This chapter seeks to draw on our analysis in a positive way, so as to develop an alternative approach to local economic development.
First, we explicitly face just what it is we are seeking when we pursue economic development. We offer a short list of primary economic goals, stated in such a way that they are free of a commercial or quantitative bias and do not prejudge or prespecify strategies in a way that prematurely narrows the alternatives open to a community.
We then discuss the larger economic context in which any local economy operates. The forces of the national and international economies severely constrain the local economy. Local policy must acknowledge those forces and constraints, or it is unlikely to achieve its objectives. Modesty is an economic virtue when it comes to local economic-development policy.
Finally, we turn to the analysis of economic development strategies based on local objectives that directly benefit residents and improve their economic wellbeing, even when they do not succeed in drawing new economic activity and new economic actors into the area from the outside. We argue that that sort of "can'tlose" strategy is superior to the risks and costs of the "business-climate" and industrial-recruitment approach that dominates local economic-development strategy.
There is no point in talking about how to encourage economic development until we know just what we are trying to achieve. What is it that we are not getting