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Charting an Economic Course

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We’ve been examining all the ways that planning commissioners can lay the groundwork for sustainable economic development. Past articles have described how to identify and recruit stakeholders for an economic planning process, take an inventory of the assets you have in the community, and find new ways that these assets can be put to use to improve the quality of life — all important elements of an economic renewal strategy. This column will close the series with ideas about how to bring the strategies you select into alignment with the global trends that will shape the economy over the next twenty years.

If your local economy were a ship and you were preparing for a journey, you’d want to:

  • have a good crew (the stakeholders),
  • know all the parts of the ship were in good working order,
  • have enough food, medical supplies, fuel, and water for the trip (the assets),
  • chart a course that suited the type of ship you had (the ways the assets could be put to use), and
  • know if storms are expected, where the shoals are located, and that your destination is a good place to go.

The vision of a sustainable economy with a safe and vibrant community; a healthy environment; lots of interesting job opportunities; rich, creative, and recreational activities; and people who are engaged in governance, can be an effective driver of a planning and implementation process. It’s the destination.

It is important, however, that we clearly articulate goals related to developing a sustainable economy at the outset, so there is broad agreement on the overall direction the community is heading. This means, for example, reaching agreement on the value of growing local entrepreneurs and supporting local businesses — this might be instead of seeking to entice outside businesses to relocate. As we’ve discussed in previous columns, part of the foundation of a sustainable local economy lies in drawing on existing local assets to build real wealth in the community. …

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