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The Power of Place in Economic Development


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New Michigan State University report urges focus on place in economic redevelopment
by Sven Gustafson | Michigan Business Review
Monday April 13, 2009, 4:58 PM

College-educated young workers who value quality of life issues above the availability of jobs and other factors will shape the new economy, a new report from Michigan State University concludes.

The report from MSU’s Land Policy Institute, entitled “Chasing the Past or Investing in Our Future: Placemaking for Prosperity in the New Economy,” recommends that communities make themselves more attractive by investing in green spaces, redeveloping downtowns and connecting the economies of urban and rural areas. The authors plan to release the full report Tuesday during the opening of the two-day 2009 Michigan Land and Prosperity Summit in Lansing.

The report finds that regional economic development clustered around assets could afford hard-hit Michigan communities with an opportunity to grow.

“Every place doesn’t have everything,” said Soji Adelaja, LPI’s director, in a statement. “But virtually every place has something that can appeal to certain segments of the population and create prosperity for communities.”

The report adds to an increasing body of research arguing that so-called knowledge workers age 25-34 are key assets for urban communities to try and attract.

It coincides with the planned release Tuesday by Ann Arbor-based think tank Michigan Future Inc. of its second-annual report detailing the state’s transition toward a knowledge-based economy.

Michigan Future president Lou Glazer has argued the state must do more to keep more of its talented young college graduates from leaving the state in order to prosper.

The new MSU report urges communities to leverage the knowledge base of existing universities. It also argues that investment in so-called green infrastructure, such as parks and trail systems, is just as important as investment in traditional infrastructure of roads and bridges.

The authors argue that urban policy makers should focus more on strategies to attract new economy growth than enacting tax incentives and other “fiscal competition” strategies, which they argue are ineffective in creating jobs.

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