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Regional strength is economic linchpin.

Regional networking, community visioning, broad tool use, and dealing with emerging global inferences are the keys for local economies to survive in the 1990s and beyond. This conclusion came as a part of the Local Economies Track of four workshops during the National League of Cities 70th Annual Congress of Cities and' Exposition.

Local officials and experts in the economic field discussed issues including New Ways to Think About Your Local Economy; Determining Development Goals for Local Economies; Using Tools to Develop Your Local Economy; and Local Economies in a Global Text.

The forums provided attendees with the opportunity to hear what other cities are doing in the way of economic development.

New Ways To Think About Your Local Economy

Regional networking for the betterment of entire communities resounds as the movement for the 1990s as local officials look at new segments of the economy.

"Historically, cities and states have competed for economic enterprise," according to Robert Kirstein. Today, the University of Tampa professor says, local officials are thinking globally and acting locally.

"Emerging businesses are being nurtured in a different way," said Marcus Weiss, Economic Development Assistance Consortium executive director. He says networking is a theme much like infrastructure was in the 1980s.

Many communities, such as the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development, are using this networking theme to draw on the expertise of banks, businesses and local officials to make the quality of life better for everyone.

Rock Hill, S.C., Mayor Betty Jo Rhea described the blighted situation facing her community as closing textile businesses and rampant unemployment dominated the northern South Carolina area. She described how the historic barriers separating North and South Carolina were destroyed as this border city and four others around the metropolis of Charlotte, N.C. aligned themselves for the region's benefit.

"We realized the city of Charlotte was the engine driving us all," Rhea said. As a result, the city formed the Rock Hill Economic Development Corporation called "Empowering the Vision."

The group identified Rock Hill's local strengths, weaknesses and impact of neighboring Charlotte. The group then networked to regionalize the area through the "Carolinas Partnership, a group of 13 surrounding counties devoted to making the Charlotte "region" more productive.

By surveying the community's resources and joining with a network, the outcome is one boasting well for the Charlotte area.

The Community Reinvestment Act (CRA), currently pending before Congress, could continue aiding this effort by suggesting banks further develop partnerships with local government.

"Economic development should take environmental and growth management regulations into account," Kirstein added. Sound regulations, particularly those that include predictability and clarity, are attractive to businesses and are then factored into the cost of doing business, Kirstein said. Development Goals For Local Economies

This session focussed officials on determining what they want their community to look like and then going after economic development which meshes with that plan, and not going after growth for growth's sake.

"The pressure for growth is not the drum beat to which we march," said Grand Forks, N.D. Mayor Michael Polovitz. "We are not driven by lust for growth for its own sake."

Working with regional allies and developing a clear strategic plan for the entire region is key for everyone, said the city of 50,000 persons.

Involving the community is vital in that process. Grand Forks passed a city sales tax after working with citizens to clearly define its uses and putting in a sunset clause. This ownership philosophy helps the city go after businesses which have goals that parallel the community's.

Fort Worth Mayor Kay Granger echoed that philosophy by cautioning officials against tailoring the community into the shape of some pot of money or grant, rather than letting the community decide what it wants and then going after that type of industry.

Businesses locating or relocating often follow similar reasoning paths. Danial Malachuk, executive vice president of Moran, Stahl and Boyer, said more is not necessarily better.

His company helps rank the most liveable cities for Fortune Magazine. He says the quality of civic leadership is among the most critical issues for the magazine and his clients.

Civic leadership helps determine the future of any given community, Malachuk said. This ranking includes local elected and appointed officials as well as business leaders in the community. Malachuk also stressed the index examines the disparity and economic results in communities as a means of forecasting the future. Tools To Develop Local Economy

Broad thinking about economic development tools and packaging them effectively are keys in cultivating economic development tools.

Tax abatement combined with a management tool has been effective in developing the Dayton, Ohio region. The Enterprise Zone Corporation permits center cities to offer incentives to businesses locating in the zones, often focussing on tax relief for real property. This abatement process forced the state to look at a way to prevent communities from competing among themselves by offering a better abatement package.

"We believe that tax abatement caused conflict with government relations," said Theodore J. Staton, assistant city manager for Dayton.

This management tool, Economic Development for Government Equity (EDGE), is a tax sharing program which takes dollars from growing tax base areas and distributes them to communities with declining tax, rates, helping to reduce the steal-a-company-syndrome.

The tools of the trade do not have to come from the city. The Council for Economic and Business Opportunity, Inc. in Baltimore, Md. is a not-for-profit group which manages many of that city's development tools.

The group's Business Owners Start-up Services (BOSS) helps low income people find their way back into the mainstream. "It's important to have a comprehensive approach," said Michael Gaines, Sr. president of the group.

The state of Missouri's tool box often municipal government options of 10 year, 100 percent abatement and 10 year, 100 percent followed by an additional 15 years at 50 percent abatement in the state's enterprise zones.

Ken Bacchus, councilman from Kansas City, says these tools work for them in large part to achieve an agreement among area mayors to not go after existing business just for tax reasons.

Local Economies In Global Context

Change is rapid and local officials had better deal with it or prepare for their city to be left behind.

Santa Barbara, Calif., Mayor Hal Conklin, chair of the NLC Advisory Council, said as a group of officials from across the country examined local economies, two frightening themes ran true throughout. Those thoughts are that the nature of change in economies is profound and most cities and that their staffs didn't have a clue what is happening.

Conklin and others worked to produce a handbook on the topic for NLC. Global Dollars, Local Sense highlights case studies and experiments from around the country of local leaders tackling the emerging issue.

The book details eight steps for strategizing for globalization in your community.

* Leadership and Vision From City Hall;

* Focus on Your Own Resources and Strengths;

* Make Plans and Set Goals;

* Seek Partnerships;

* Emphasize Regional Cooperation;

* Improve Education and Workforce Training;

* Build on the Community's Cultural DivePity; and

* Internationalize City Hall. Many of these "global" strategies parallel those previously mentioned for domestic economy consideration.

Conklin pointed out the irony of history in that in the 1890s the country was moving from a regional to national economy and now the country is moving through a national to a global economy.

One existing mindset which Carol Conway urged local officials to stay away from is the notion of global economy as an export numbers game. The director of Southern Offices Corporation for Enterprise Development said the subject is about competitiveness, not export Only.

The task is no longer fly across the ocean, have dinner with dignitaries and wait for the business. Today, local officials, with the cooperation Of their citizens, must do their homework and find the diamond in the rough. Three considerations for successful global planning include make the process inclusive from the start; formalize strategic planning process to inventory assets; and make the process a collaborative one.

Conway says there are five roles for local government in this planning process.

* Concentrate on exposing the public to global issues;

* Be an advocate for key industries in ensuring they receive what they want;

* Reconfigure local economy within the global context; and

* Concentrate on having literate public on global terms Integrate strategies.

William Dodge, principal in Strategic Partnerships Consulting, say communities must cut across traditional lines. "The basic unit of economic competitiveness is the region," he said.

One trend that may .be perceived as a help in global economy is the NAFTA vote, Conklin said. This has raised the awareness of global concerns in cities across the country.

Convincing the public of the need for global consideration may not be easy, but the panel suggests that cities inventory existing products and tell the public the degree to which global products already exist.

Starting with a sister city relationship involving the media and public is a good way to undertake the development of this type of relationship.
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Title Annotation:Cities in Action: Working Together; Track Workshops Fostered Sharing, Shaped New Ideas, Broadened Outlook on Our Cities' Futures
Author:Roeder, Mike
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Date:Dec 13, 1993
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