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Local leaders need to plan for and embrace technology changes.

Rapidfire change, spurred by technolog, is making the world seem smaller and possibilities for the near future limitless. Even as the global economy is being transformed by technological advances, the prospects for local economies are just as complex and critical.

Cities and regions will become the foundations for the future: the focal points of economic growth and productivity. They will be the locations for a future centralized financial niarket, or corporate telecommunications hubs, or for hosts of other purposes which have not yet evolved. Again, the spectre of limitless potential is apparent.

However, without careful planning, vision and commitment right now, other cities could become off-ramps to nowhere, from a superinformation highway that will guide local, regional, national, and international commerce into the next century.

Investment and creation of a so-called superinformation highway is projected to increase American productivity by 300 billion over the next decade and a half. The investments to finance this highway and the resulting new network win fundamentally alter the shape of cities and provide some of the most far-reaching economic development opportunities of the century. The rapid technological advances are creating explosions of new opportunities in cities for products, services, and new jobs.

Our nation was founded on cities with access to power (water or other natural resources producing cheap fuel), raw materials, access to markets through railroads and water routes; the new age will focus on concentrations of technical, financial, managerial know-how. Silicon Valley in California already boasts more than 900 public tech companies and hundreds of private ones.

The creation of jobs, opportunities, and economic growth will be less reliant on physical infrastructure and size. Faxes, modems, and other telecommunications technologies already make it possible for corporations to locate anywhere and to compete internationally at smaller and smaller sizes. Further, the growing use of technology has accelerated the access of the nation's smallest businesses to economic growth.

The explosive growth of the information network will have key economic development effects for cities and towns. As with any infrastructure, rights-of-way will provide critical leverage for cities and towns as the private sector seeks to put in and use or access high-capacity fiber and other telecommunications technology. How cities choose to use this leverage will determine new growth plans and economic development in their communities.

The coming information infrastructure will affect local taxes, local access to international marketplaces, and local business growth and opportunity. Federal information superhighway policy could directly affect municipal authority, franchising powers, sales tax revenues, retail development, commuting patterns, and how cities communicate with citizens.

The decisions will influence the ability of American cities to compete in the global economy. Federal policy could channel hundreds of billions of dollars worth of private investment into cities in the transformation of how information is relayed within and between cities around the globe.

The cities that understand and anticipate then changes will be world leaders. The cities that anticipate and take advantage of these emerging technologies will find ever more effective and efficient ways to serve taxpayers and businesses for services as disparate as information and data transmission.

The changes win impact retailers, affecting property and sales taxes for municipalities. The decreased need for physical travel to shop, or for meetings, or for consultation will affect airports and hotels and downtown office space, affecting commercial property vales and tax assessments.

How can municipal leaders think about and take advantage of these changes? How will they reshape cities?

The key issues communities will have to address from the perspective of economic growth include:

* strategic policy development and planning

* municipal investment;

* municipal tax policy; and

* interreaction with federal policy to insure that municipal concerns are addressed.
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Title Annotation:includes related article on municipal technology investment plans
Author:Shafroth, Frank
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Nov 15, 1993
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