A study from the Center for Business and Economic Research at Ball State University suggests current business attraction efforts at the local level are not effective. CBER Director Michael Hicks says relying upon a county economic development organization to "deliver prosperity" is not realistic. He says those groups should instead shift their focus to quality of place efforts.
Hicks tells Inside INdiana Business economic development officials are "fixated" on attracting "footloose firms," which can relocate operations without concern for local demand for goods or services. However, he says there are fewer of those types of business in Indiana and nationwide than there were 30 years ago.
"Counties and municipal governments and even neighborhoods really have to worry about more fundamental things," says Hicks. "Are our schools good? Are our streets paved? Are our communities safe? Are there things for families to do in their off hours? That’s the big economic development bonus of the 21st century."
However, Hicks says it is reasonable to argue for boosting economic development efforts at the state and regional level. He says there are strong regional partnerships in the Fort Wayne and Evansville areas, saying they "have been working on quality of place issues for a long time. That’s where the business attraction people belong: at the regional level."
The study suggests a greater share of the emphasis and resources from local governments should go toward efforts to attract more households than businesses. Hicks says this includes efforts to support local schools directly.
You can view the full study, "Why Have Local Economic Development Policies Been So Disappointing?" below:
Hicks says the study should serve as a “wake up call” regarding current economic development efforts..