1954 Called and it Wants its Economic Development Strategy Back!

*I write this post in the midst of battling state legislation that would curtail local decision making on economic issues in favor of a single statewide standard.

Indulge me, please.

In an age when people, jobs and entire industries are mobile city leaders must make great efforts to distinguish their communities from the crowd. Creating and nurturing authentic experiences for people are vital tools for improving economic opportunities. That’s a fact.

The “one size fits all” argument clings to a flawed premiss that it increases efficiency, which leads to growth. This concept is at least outdated.

If the goal of a city or state is to attract low skilled, low paying production jobs then a single set of rules may eradicate barriers to entry. Many emerging countries favor this strategy. I, however, am under the impression that we’re aiming higher in Michigan.

Think of all the great places you like to visit (or live) and ask yourself, “what if they all looked and felt alike?” Where would Portland be without its emphasis on the environment? How would Austin differ without neighborhood based live music? Is Miami Beach still extraordinary without Art Deco?

Celebrating human diversity is a worthy and generally accepted goal today. We must do the same when it comes to our cities. Unique rules that buoy local culture and honor the distinct attributes of people and places are good things. Wiping them out is shortsighted and ill-advised.

Rant concluded.

*I now return you to your regularly scheduled program.

  • A one size fits all approach only works for planting seeds.

    As Jane Jacobs said, “Standardization is the father of stagnation.”